Los Angeles Lakers: LA Must Improve Defense to Be Successful

Joshua J Vannuccini@@jjvannucciniSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 8, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 06:  Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets drives past Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 6, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  The Nuggets won 112-105.  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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The 2012-13 season for the Los Angeles Lakers has been nothing short of disappointing. While chemistry issues and adjusting to other play-styles were expected, a losing percentage almost a month from the All-Star break was not.

With a dismal 15-18 record and three games back from the eighth playoff seed in the West, it's safe to say LA needs to establish an identity. Coach Mike D'Antoni's '7 Seconds or Less' offensive scheme gives the Lakers an offensive trademark, but it is defensively where the organisation must make a commitment. 

As it stands, LA ranks fifth in points per game with 102.9 per contest. They also boast a modest 45.3 shooting percentile which, along with their 15.5 turnovers per game, could do with some improvement.

However, this component of the team will improve in time, with the veteran guidance and presence of Bryant, Nash and D'Antoni. Yet while this aspect of the Lakers will seemingly correct itself, it falls under the umbrella of blame when it comes to LA's defense.

Currently Los Angeles allows 100.8 points per game, which ranks 26th in the league, alongside abysmal defensive teams such as Phoenix and Charlotte. On the other hand, LA hovers just below the middle of the league in opponent field-goal percentage at 44.7 percent.

Due to their fast-paced offense, the Lakers are unable to contain their opponents on the opposite end, allowing 86.7 attempts per contest, which trails just Houston. So in retrospect, LA plays decent defense yet allows too many attempts due to their own swift offensive system.

Conceivably, this would not be a huge issue if LA could become increasingly successful with their sets, but as aforementioned, it will come in time. 

Nonetheless, it is something that desperately needs to be addressed. The fact remains that the Lakers simply cannot defend the pick and roll. Despite having Dwight Howard as an interior presence, there is often a discrepancy in this field.

Nash, more often than not, will go under the screen on a switch, while Howard backs too far off the ball handler, resulting in wide open jump-shots and/or the opportunity to draw the defense inside and kicking out to open shooters.

In losses this season, LA has allowed 21.4 points, 8.8 assists, 2.1 turnovers and 49.1 percent shooting (8.3 FGM against 16.9 FGA) from the starting point-guard position. In contrast, the Lakers have held opposing point-guards to 13.4 points, 6.4 assists, 2.4 turnovers and 33.3 percent shooting (5.2 FGM against 15.6 FGA) in wins. 

As evident from a statistical standpoint, the usage of opposing point guards remains constant, LA just does a better job of defending in certain situations, which leads to wins. 

Last night's game against the Denver Nuggets was a prime example of this problem. Ty Lawson and Andre Miller combined for 33 points on 11-for-28 shooting (Miller was 4-for-10), and 20 assists with just one turnover.

Denver also shot a worse percentage than LA, with a poor 43.6 percent as opposed to the Lakers' 46.3 percent. Yet in concordant fashion, Los Angeles allowed 101 field-goal attempts, while just taking 82 themselves. 

It may be a matter of splitting hairs with LA's offense and defense, but there are undoubtedly discrepancies on both sides. The team is becoming more and more comfortable with D'Antoni's system, in addition to Nash at the helm.

However, there needs to be a sense of urgency defensively, particularly at the point-guard position. At the almost midway point of the season, it should not be as much of an issue, or at the very least be under control.