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. Report: Knicks reach deal with backup center Kevin Seraphin

    Aug 4, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Charlotte Hornets Getty Images

    He will battle Kyle O’Quinn to backup Robin Lopez.

  2. Corey Brewer excited to reunite with Ty Lawson, spark Houston

    Aug 4, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    Denver Nuggets vs Houston Rockets Getty Images

    Lawson and Brewer put up impressive offensive numbers together in Denver.

  3. Raptors officially unveil new uniforms, yes there is a Drake-inspired one

    Aug 4, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT

    alternate2-details

    I’m no fashion critic, but they’re not bad.

  4. Andrea Bargnani says he would have played “for free” to prove himself with Nets

    Aug 4, 2015, 9:14 AM EDT

    Andrea Bargnani AP

    Somehow I bet he still cashes his paychecks rather than actually playing for free.

  5. Morris twins lawyers seek to send case back to grand jury

    Aug 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Phoenix Suns Media Day Getty Images

    The Morris twins have denied any involvement, or even knowing the victim.

  6. Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle says team will err on side of caution with Wesley Matthews return

    Aug 4, 2015, 1:05 AM EDT

    New York Knicks v Portland Trail Blazers Getty Images

    Thinking long-term is the smart approach, the only one the Mavericks should consider

  7. Kobe Bryant’s popularity in China knows no bounds

    Aug 3, 2015, 11:17 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwzjzdnimmu0mmfiyjq3nwrlytblymy1zja0mgnhnmiw AP

    Kobe Bryant is Beatles during the British Invasion level popular in China.

  8. Report: Nets doing Earl Clark a favor and waiving him

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:59 PM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks- Game One Getty Images

    Brooklyn could have easily kept Clark through training camp

  9. Jerry Colangelo: Paul George will attend USA Basketball minicamp meeting, won’t play

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT

    Team USA Showcase Getty Images

    Pacers star maintains status as lock for 2016 Olympic roster – if he wants to play

  10. Klay Thompson’s brother called up to the White Sox

    Aug 3, 2015, 8:16 PM EDT

    Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Getty Images

    Trayce Thompson gives Thompson family yet another professional athlete

  11. LeBron James to attend Team USA minicamp, leave early

    Aug 3, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT

    US forward LeBron James celebrates after Getty Images

    That’ll keep him a viable candidate for 2016 Olympic roster

  12. Report: Mavericks give Salah Mejri fully guaranteed salary

    Aug 3, 2015, 5:36 PM EDT

    BASKET-EURL-ANADOLU EFES-REAL MADRID Getty Images

    Dallas loading up on players. What will roster look like in November?

  13. Nancy Lieberman says DeMarcus Cousins happy Kings hired her

    Aug 3, 2015, 3:58 PM EDT

    Nancy Lieberman Nancy Lieberman

    Will new Sacramento assistant coach improve Cousins’ relationship with George Karl?

  14. Ray Allen: “I won’t officially retire”

    Aug 3, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT

    Ray Allen AP

    “I didn’t miss it. I realized how much time I missed not being home with my kids.” —Ray Allen on last season

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (1902)
  2. L. James (1599)
  3. J. Thompson (1560)
  4. J. Smith (1396)
  5. S. Vujacic (1385)
  1. T. Thompson (1385)
  2. M. Scott (1366)
  3. P. George (1318)
  4. S. Curry (1220)
  5. J. Noah (1183)