By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Mar 10 2011 11:33AM
In this NBA.com StatsCube study, StatsCube looks at the dual personalities of the two-time defending champs.
With an unmatched combination of talent and size, the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers have been both an elite offensive team and an elite defensive team since acquiring Pau Gasol in Feb. 2008. Just not always at the same time.
|Lakers efficiency, by month|
|Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions|
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions
The Lakers are one of four teams (Miami, Orlando and San Antonio are the others) that rank in the top 10 both offensively and defensively. They have the third best offense, at 108.7 points per 100 possessions. And they have the eighth best defense, allowing 101.4.
But the overall numbers don't tell the whole story because the Lakers have been anything but consistent.
Through the first six weeks of the season, the Lakers had the No. 1 offense but just the 11th best defense. And in the 5 ½ weeks since the start of February, they've had the 13th best offense and the fifth best defense.
This dual-personality stuff is nothing new for the champs. And it's not a bad thing, because it took two different Lakers teams to win the 2010 NBA championship.
What was most impressive about the Lakers a year ago was how they won their four playof series. On their way to the title, they played two top-10 defensive teams, Oklahoma City and Boston, and two top-10 offensive teams, Utah and Phoenix.
|Lakers efficiency, 2010 postseason|
The series against the Thunder and Celtics were low-scoring (183 total points per game), but the series against the Jazz and Suns were high-scoring (218 per game). The Lakers took on whichever personality they needed to win. By out-defending the good defensive teams and outscoring the good offensive ones, they earned banner No. 16.
That came off a regular season in which the Lakers were rather mediocre offensively, scoring just a point per 100 possessions better than the league average and ranking 11th in the league, despite all their talent. This season, the Lakers have come much closer to making the most of their talent on that end. Until recently, though, they had taken a small step backward defensively.
When we think of elite defense over the last few years, we first think of the Boston Celtics. But the Lakers have the personnel to be as good or better (as they were in The Finals).
It starts on the interior, where the Lakers start two 7-footers and bring a versatile 6-foot-10 power forward off the bench. And then they have two of the best perimeter defenders in the league.
Top defensive units, min. 100 minutes
Of five-man lineups that have played a minimum of 100 minutes, the Lakers' have the fourth best defensive unit, anchored by Andrew Bynum, who has been their most impactful defender, according to on-off-court data.
Bynum's impact has been part of the reason for the Lakers' dual personalities. He missed the first 24 games of the season and wasn't playing regular minutes until after Christmas.
Of course, a well-chronicled lack of focus and motivation has been an issue for most of the season, too. But in winning their first eight games since the All-Star break, the Lakers have turned up the defense, allowing just 95.2 points per 100 possessions and holding six of their eight opponents to less than 40 percent shooting. Only the Chicago Bulls (94.4) have been better since the break.
If the Lakers can continue to stay focused for the final five weeks, they won't have to flip the switch like they did in last year's playoffs. Either way, they'll go into the postseason knowing that they can play any way they want. And it's their dual personalities that make them a favorite to win their third straight title.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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