All year long the Lakers held a lingering hope that their talent would win out, and their mismatched parts would contort into some sort of functional whole that allowed Kobe, Dwight, Pau, and Nash to flourish.
It never happened. Kobe got hurt. And they’re about to get destroyed by San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs.
Even when you ignore the general problems with the Lakers and how they’re constructed, the Spurs are simply an awful match-up for them.
As last year’s OKC series showed, San Antonio’s Kryptonite is a young, athletic team that can run up and down and force turnovers. To slow down their offence you need to have 1) a few on-ball defenders to keep Tony Parker out of the paint, 2) athletes on the wings to rotate and contest open shots, and 3) someone who can guard Duncan one-on-one in the post.
LA doesn’t have those first two. They allowed the sixth-most shots at the rim in the league in the regular season, according to HoopData, mostly because any quick, above-average guard can beat any Lakers defender off the dribble.
Their guards are Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Darius Morris, and Andrew Goudelock. Parker can break down any one of those guys whenever he wants, forcing the Lakers’ bigs into foul trouble and creating open shots when the defence collapses.
San Antonio is already one of the best teams in the league at getting shots at the rim (9th overall), and that’s going to be even easier against the Lakers.
LA’s other defensive weakness is defending the three. They’re rotations are so bad that they’re continually leaving guys wide open. They gave up the 3rd-most threes in the NBA this year, and teams shoot right at 37% (the league average) against them.
San Antonio is the 4th-best three-point shooting team in the league, and they’re going to be taking a ton of them against LA. That’s a recipe for disaster.
In short, the Lakers are a bad defensive team, and some of their biggest defensive weaknesses correspond to San Antonio’s biggest offensive strengths.
The only thing they’re good at defensively is keeping teams off the free-throw line (1st in the league in free throws per field goal attempt), but San Antonio doesn’t really rely on free throws for points (21st in the league in FT attempts), so that one advantage shouldn’t really make a difference.
The Lakers are below-average on defence regardless of opponent. But they’ll be particularly helpless against the Spurs.
Even if LA had an advantage on offence (they don’t) or in coaching (they definitely don’t), this defensive disadvantage would be impossible to overcome.
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