59.5 Percent: How the Lakers Shot Their Highest Clip in 4 Years
With 21 games remaining, the Lakers have already surpassed last year’s win total, and they did so in red-hot style.
The purple and gold shot 59.5 percent from the floor — their best mark since 2014— and knocked down a robust 16-of-29 on 3-pointers (55.2 percent).
Let’s take a look at how the Lakers dropped 131 points on the league’s seventh-ranked defense.
The Lakers play at the fastest pace in the NBA, and the Heat at the third-slowest. With such a contrast in styles, whoever controlled the speed of the game was going to have a huge advantage.
L.A. got what it wanted in this regard, outscoring Miami on fast-breaks, 22-10. Even more impressively, they came away fruitless on just one such attempt, shooting a near-perfect 10-of-11 on the break.
The key to this was the 20-year-old that coach Luke Walton called “probably the best player on the court tonight.”
Lonzo Ball was everywhere for the Lakers, piling up eight points, seven assists, six rebounds and, most impressively, a career-high six steals.
Ball constantly jumped into passing lanes and swatted the ball out of the hands of unsuspecting big men. He was credited with 10 deflections, and the Lakers essentially benefitted every time he sparked transition.
Every single one of his six steals and six rebounds led to the Lakers scoring on the ensuing possession.
No Laker — and few players across the NBA — has imposed his will like Julius Randle has over the last nine games, over which he has averaged 20.1 points on 60.1 percent shooting.
Randle was back in monster mode in Miami, racking up 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Miami tried covering him with a rotating cast of big men, but he dominated each one, mainly by taking them off the dribble.
Randle’s physicality was too much for yet another team to handle, as he hit seven shots in the paint and drew nine free throw attempts (making all of them), including three on and-1 buckets.
Like all of last month, Randle was the Lakers’ go-to option to begin the game, scoring 21 points in the first half alone, including 11 in the opening quarter. In February, the big man ranked fourth among all players in first-quarter scoring average (8.4).
Three young Lakers showing some of their best talents in one possession.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) March 2, 2018
• Brandon Ingram uses his length for a tough rebound.
• Lonzo Ball fires the outlet pass.
• Julius Randle bowling-balls his way in for a bucket. pic.twitter.com/HEHtiLlc9e
King in the Fourth
The Lakers were treated to a vintage Isaiah Thomas fourth-quarter takeover, as the newest Laker scorched the Heat begin the final frame.
Thomas finished the night with a season-high 29 points, plus six 3-pointers and six assists. He flummoxed defenders by crafting a two-man game with Ivica Zubac, who was credited with seven screen assists.
Miami had zero answer for Thomas in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, in which he scored 11 points including three triples. All four of those made shots either came via a pick-and-roll or off-ball screen with Zubac.
Isaiah Thomas' three triples to start the fourth quarter? All off screens from Ivica Zubac.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) March 2, 2018
They've developed a nice two-man game, with Thomas accounting for 15 pts and 3 ast off Zubac screens last night.
: https://t.co/O865M1s7Lu pic.twitter.com/FVKjgUFL9A
Naturally, the Heat adjusted their defense to try to corral Thomas, so he began returning the favor to Zu. When Miami began doubling the Lakers’ sixth man, he fed Zubac with two passes that led straight to free throws and an alley-oop dunk.
In total, Thomas finished the night with 15 points and three assists solely off plays when he came off a Zubac screen.
Quick lesson in gravity. A red-hot Isaiah Thomas draws three (!) Heat defenders toward him before serving it up to Zubac. pic.twitter.com/VY9gK0XvpZ— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) March 2, 2018
After spending the last 10 games as the team’s starting point guard, Brandon Ingram returned to his natural small forward position, but kept many of the playmaking responsibilities he had developed at the one.
He was partly responsible for distributing the ball, finishing the night with five assists, and carried much of the workload when it came to operating out of pick-and-rolls.
Ingram quickly got on the scoreboard with a couple layups, and from there the Heat decided that they were not going to let him beat them at the basket.
Miami responded by dropping back and giving him open looks from mid-range, which Ingram gladly accepted. The 20-year-old shot 4-of-5 on pull-up jumpers — a shot he has been much more comfortable taking this season.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Ingram followed his hot, 11-point third quarter by suffering a left hip flexor strain, leaving him questionable to play in Saturday’s game at San Antonio.
With Josh Hart (fractured hand) and Corey Brewer (waived) out of the picture, that leaves the Lakers with just one healthy wing in the current rotation, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Lakers will need to get creative with their lineups (especially if Ingram can’t play), but at least they have the firepower to do so.