Skip to content

Hidden key to the Lakers recent success? They’ve cut down their turnovers

Nov 19, 2012, 2:25 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom AP

The last two Lakers games (wins over the Rockets and Suns) have foreshadowed a shift in how they hope to play for the rest of the season.

The team that once ground out possessions in the half court has turned up the tempo and blown away the opposition by allowing their talent to shine. Highlight plays have paired with high point totals and everyone is feeling good in Laker-land about the way the team is scoring.

But lost in the euphoria of the Lakers attempt to return to Showtime via Dwight Howard dunks and Kobe Bryant knifing to the basket has been a key element to their offensive success: the Lakers have drastically cut down on their turnovers.

On the season, the Lakers have been one of the more turnover heavy teams in the league. Through 10 games they rank second to last in turnovers per game (16.9) and are worst in the league in turnover percentage (17.9) per NBA.com. Basically, the Lakers have been finding ways to shoot themselves in the foot with giveaways, a reality that has hurt their offense (for obvious reasons) and their defense (giving their opponents easy baskets in transition).

In the last two games this has started to shift, however. Against the Suns and the Rockets the Lakers averaged only 12.5 turnovers per game and their turnover percentage dipped to 12.6. This has made a substantial difference in the Lakers’ ability to be more consistent on offense and has given their opponents fewer opportunities to rip them in transition.

The sample size caveat needs to be stated right up front because we’re only talking about two games and any team can have a nice stretch of mistake free ball over the course of 96 minutes. Not to mention that there’s a certain amount of luck involved with not giving the ball away and avoiding turnovers — 50/50 balls may go your way, a bad pass is only knocked out of bounds, etc.

That said, this shift can’t be totally disregarded either. At the start of the season the Lakers’ transition to the Princeton offense led to a general confusion amongst the players. Often times guys looked lost on where they should be, when they should be there, and how they were supposed to play off of each other to generate good looks. This led to players missing easy passes, making bad reads with the ball, and a general forcing of the action that plagued them each night.

Now, however, the Lakers are running a much simpler offense. The floor is more wide open, passing angles are cleaner, and players seem to have a better understanding of where they should be and where the next pass should go to. The result has been a better looking offense overall and fewer mistakes by players looking to move the ball on to a teammate.

It should also be noted that even though the sample size is small, the Lakers are playing at a much faster pace with more possessions in each game than they had earlier in the year. So, while it has only been two games, the reduction in turnovers is noteworthy simply because the Lakers have had more opportunities within these games to give the ball away and have actually been doing the opposite. They have been playing faster and smarter.

While the signs are encouraging for the lack of turnovers to be a lasting trend, we can still expect there to be hiccups and some regression to the mean. The Rockets and Suns aren’t exactly top flight defenses and the Lakers will have to show they can play this way against teams that pressure the ball and jump passing lanes (a la the Grizzlies who, coincidentally play the Lakers on Friday).

Steve Nash‘s return is also likely to cause an increase in giveaways simply because he can be a risk taker with his passes, especially when throwing lobs to Howard or when operating in a crowded lane trying to dish to a diving big or out to spot up shooters around the arc.

However, even with an uptick from Nash or when playing more ball-hawking opponents the hope — at least from the Lakers’ perspective — is that their days of being one of the worst turnover teams are behind them. And based off recent trends and the shift to an offense that they’re grasping well, those hopes look to be substantiated.

Latest Posts
  1. Blake Griffin among actors for dramatic reading of “Space Jam” (VIDEO)

    Apr 18, 2014, 12:56 AM EDT

    Monstars space jam

    This is exactly what you’ve been waiting for — a dramatic reading of Space Jam including Blake Griffin and D’Andre Jordan.

  2. Son tweets Craig Sager has acute leukemia

    Apr 17, 2014, 11:18 PM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game Five Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game Five

    We may not see him on the sidelines of TNT games these playoffs.

  3. Report: Joel Anthony opting in with Celtics

    Apr 17, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    Center has $3.8 million player option

  4. Likely top-10 pick Dante Exum signs with adidas

    Apr 17, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT

    Essendon Bombers Media Opportunity Getty Images

    Adidas rolls the dice on a young guard with potential. Not a bad business plan.

  5. Kentucky’s James Young, Duke’s Rodney Hood declare for NBA draft

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:57 PM EDT

    NCAA Men's Final Four - Championship Getty Images

    Both are likely first round picks in the teens or early 20s.

  6. The Al Jefferson Effect: Now that the Bobcats are playoff-bound, how they want their big man to help next

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Steve Clifford, Cody Zeller, Al Jefferson Steve Clifford, Cody Zeller, Al Jefferson

    What affect will Jefferson have on the development of Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller?

  7. Toronto puts together fantastic playoffs preview video

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT

    Timberwolves Raptors Basketball AP

    Raptors fans are pumped for the playoffs.

  8. Carmelo Anthony: “I want to come back…I also want to win.”

    Apr 17, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    Carmelo Anthony AP

    It really comes down to this: Does he trust Phil Jackson and Knicks management to build a winner quickly?

  9. LeBron James, Heat top NBA jersey sales again

    Apr 17, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat Getty Images

    You put your money where your heart is, and your heart clearly follows LeBron James and the Heat.

  10. The incredible thing about Larry Drew

    Apr 17, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT

    Larry Drew Larry Drew

    Bucks didn’t win back-to-back games all season

  11. Kobe tells Lakers’ fans to “flush” last season, has been cleared to run, shoot, prepare for next season

    Apr 17, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Kobe may be in France but he still had time to tweet Lakers fans and tell them things will be better next season.

  12. Duke’s Jabari Parker says he will enter NBA Draft

    Apr 17, 2014, 12:55 PM EDT

    Duke v Mercer Getty Images

    He is as high on some boards as No. 1, but likely goes No. 3. However no freshman near the top of this board will have a bigger immediate impact in the NBA — his offensive game is NBA ready.

  13. Report: Rick Adelman will not return as Timberwolves coach

    Apr 17, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

    Rick Adelman Rick Adelman

    This both has been expected and is mutual, according to the buzz around the league.

  14. Report: Grant Hill not interested in becoming Pistons’ general manager

    Apr 17, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT

    BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2014 Getty Images

    Hill previously reported to be a candidate for a job

Featured video

Handing out NBA's postseason awards
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Williams (3734)
  2. K. Love (3694)
  3. L. James (3664)
  4. D. Wade (3649)
  5. S. Curry (3479)
  1. C. Anthony (3247)
  2. R. Rondo (3105)
  3. G. Dragic (3006)
  4. R. Westbrook (2960)
  5. K. Durant (2820)