The main thing we've learned from the Lakers in the first quarter of the season is that everything matters, even the little things. There are a couple different examples of this.
The first one is free-throw shooting. The Lakers own the league's worst free-throw percentage at 67.8 percent. That one aspect won't make or break your season but it can cost you in individual games, just like it did when Dwight Howard couldn't put the Houston Rockets away from the charity stripe on Dec. 4.
Another example is turnovers. Turnovers, like free-throw shooting, won't make or break your season. The Oklahoma City Thunder led the NBA in turnovers last season and made it to the NBA Finals. OKC is leading the NBA in turnovers again and is still one of the top teams in the league. The Lakers, however, are right behind them, ranking 29th in turnovers per game and 29th in turnover ratio.
If you're a team that creates a lot of turnovers, it's easier to withstand turning the ball over because you'll get an opportunity to make up for it. If you're a team that misses a lot of free throws but attempts a lot of free throws, you'll also be able to offset that lower percentage simply by shooting more free throws than your opponent.
The Lakers, however, are 28th in defensive turnover ratio, and they're 20th in free throws attempted. Those two little categories end up being a big factor.
Consider this: The Lakers are eighth in offensive efficiency, seventh in points per game and seventh in field-goal percentage. They're 13th in opponent field-goal percentage, 14th in defensive efficiency and 17th in points allowed per game.
All of those statistics imply the Lakers' record should be much better than it is—somewhere around fifth- to 10th-best in the NBA. In fact, their Pythagorean wins (13)—which estimates a team's record based on points scored and allowed—is ranked sixth. The reason their record isn't in line with that is because the Lakers haven't been doing the little things with any consistency, like closing teams out from the line or protecting the basketball.
On the bright side, this also shows that the Lakers aren't too far away from putting it together. So while we've learned the little things can add up to make a big difference between winning and losing a game, we've also learned the Lakers are only a few little tweaks away from getting this thing back on track.