When Lakers Chuck Threes, Good Things Happen

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterDecember 5, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 05:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a score against the New Orleans Hornets at New Orleans Arena on December 5, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Bryant scored his 30,000th point in tonight's game making him the fifth player in NBA history to reach the achievement.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Lakers easily handled the New Orleans Pelicans (Hornets), coasting to a 103-87 road victory. Much is notable about the game, including Jordan Hill's spirited rebounding, Kobe's eclipsing of 30,000 points and Dwight's defensive mastery.

But what stuck out to me is an emerging Laker pattern: When they let it fly from distance, they tend to win. In this game, the Lakers specifically torched New Orleans between the left corner and top of the three-point circle, after actions wherein Dwight Howard suctioned the defense toward him:

This is the D'Antoni way, and probably will be going forward—much to the chagrin of Pau Gasol. It's a little surprising, when you consider L.A.'s lack of name-brand three-point shooters, but Dwight Howard's presence can open up space, making average three-point shooters into specialists. I endorse the embrace of D'Antoni-ball, though not every L.A. fan is on board. This team has been defined by its big men for decades, and there are some historical concerns related to living by the three:

It's not just that D'Antoni hasn't won a title. No team whose offense is predicated on 3PT shooting has ever won a title.

— Got 'Em Coach (@GotEm_Coach) December 6, 2012

The Lakers are shooting 24.4 threes per game in their nine victories and 20.9 threes per game in losses. As a percentage of shots, the gap between threes taken in wins and losses is smaller because L.A. shoots fewer times in defeats (29.3 percent in wins, 27.6 percent in losses).

That last detail plays into the D'Antoni way as well, because the Lakers would appear to be playing better at a fast pace. It is said that a good coach adjusts his system to his team's strengths, but L.A. has so far performed better when playing as Phoenix did. It's possible that Mike D'Antoni's presence might create new strengths for Los Angeles.

Of course, getting to the rim is also a bonus. In victories, as charted below, the Lakers get 46.6 percent of their shots at the rim, to go along with 29.3 percent of their shots as threes:

For the Lakers, shooting 76 percent of their shots from behind the three-point line or at the rim makes for a good strategy. You would figure that taking more tries from behind the three-point arc might reduce the number of at-rim shots for Los Angeles, but this hasn't been the case. In these losses (the ones where Los Angeles shoots fewer threes), they're also taking fewer shots at the hoop, albeit by a thin margin.

Of course, shooting more from distance and more often at the rim is easier said than done. The doing may come in the form of fewer minutes for Pau Gasol and more minutes for Antawn Jamison. Also expect to see more time from Jodie Meeks, who's already earned the Twitter moniker, "Jodi3 M33ks" for his early-season three-point exploits.

The Lakers might not be an ideal D'Anonti roster because they ostensibly have two centers. While this is true, it's also true that L.A. has enough talent to pull off Mike's system, as long as Jamison plays more and Pau plays less.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if the Los Angeles Lakers start playing like the New York Knicks.