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The Lakers are hot, but are they really playing that well?

Feb 25, 2013, 2:11 PM EDT

Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace AP

Here’s a little secret about the Lakers — look at just their point differential this season (points scored minus points allowed) and they should be a 31-26 team. They lost a lot of games early in the season they could and should have won.

Now they are hot again — win Monday night in Denver and they are a .500 team. Even before that game they have won 11 of their last 15 and are just 2.5 games back of Houston for the eighth playoff spot. They seem to have found a sense of identity and who they are in the new system, and that is letting them win these close games.

But don’t be fooled that the Lakers are suddenly a much better team, argues Tom Ziller at SB Nation.

According to, over the last 15 games (11-4 record) the Lakers are scoring 1.04 points per possession and allowing 1.02. Over the entire season (59 games, 24-25 record) the Lakers are scoring 1.05 points per possession and allowing 1.03. The team’s efficiency differential for the season is +1.9; over the last 15 games it is +2.3. The Lakers are barely different. It’s hard to look at the data and ascertain that anything has clicked into place. This is essentially the same team that it has been: a slightly above average club. But the Lakers’ unlucky record from the first half of the season is now regressing to the mean, which the data indicates is still far short of expectations.

He’s not wrong, although he later admits what shows up when you watch the games — the Lakers are still inconsistent. They have a lot more good games than bad now as they start to figure things out, but they still have some ugly losses (by 24 to the Clippers on Valentines day, for example). The Lakers numbers have always been a little hard to read and value this season because they are so up and down.

Really that’s been about Dwight Howard, who has been up and down on the defensive end. With Kobe Bryant leading the way — shooting or passing — the Lakers offense has been good this season, it is the defense that has been the issue.

Now the Lakers are finding their stride, particularly on defense, and there are more up games. They are going to have to go catch the Rockets (who have an easy schedule the rest of the way) or Utah (hard schedule but still have Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap) if they are going to make the playoffs. Those teams are not coming back to them.

  1. fanofevilempire - Feb 25, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    I believe in Kobe, that guy hates to lose.
    They look pretty good the last 15 games.
    They can make a run.

    • lmoneyfresh - Feb 25, 2013 at 3:28 PM

      Kobe has an advantage over every other player. They all love losing.

      • moseskkim - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:16 PM

        Ur funny.. No one likes losing, but many are cool with it as long as they get their paycheck. The poster wrote kobe hates losing. There’s a big difference. Not everyone’s competitive drive is the same.

  2. davidly - Feb 25, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    Well, they are the cream of the crop of the sub-500s–the only one of them to have a positive point differential, but they’ve had that most of the season.

    Either they squeak into the playoffs, or they can play Boston in the NIT finals.

  3. cosanostra71 - Feb 25, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    This is why you can’t just look at statistics. A lot of their close wins lately would have been close losses earlier in the season. They have been hitting their shots more consistently late in games and have been able to make more defensive stops in close games. These things may not show up in statistics but they are visible. The Lakers have a lot of room for improvement (what sub-.500 teams don’t) but they have gotten better since the beginning of the season.

    • moseskkim - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:20 PM

      If anyone watched the games earlier in the season and watch now, it’s night and day. Sure they’ve been winning but they’ve played better ball. The ball is moving, guys are shooting with confidence, and coach Pringles has a set rotation. They’ve been ravaged with injuries so I think dantoni has done a good job considering the circumstances. The big man rotation is real sad though. What can you do when pau and hill are out and u only have sacre with big man size?

      • aboogy123456 - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:32 PM

        Coach pringles..That’s awesome!

  4. teambringitstrong - Feb 25, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    Sounds like someone is bitter and actually fears the Lakers. Oh well.

  5. phisticuffs - Feb 25, 2013 at 3:06 PM

    Love the enthusiasm brought on by reduced expectations. 4 months ago, barely beating a sub-.500 Portland team at home, followed by struggling to beat a sub.-500 Mavs team on the road would not have been the cause of celebration. Even more sobering, if Kobe played well yesterday (instead of other-worldly), it would have been a loss.

  6. BigBeachBall - Feb 25, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    I cut my jeans the other day… now their fuggin ruined… don’t know how people wear them like that…

    • fanofevilempire - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      hey,make shorts.
      did you pick out shoes yet?

    • fanofevilempire - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      hey,make shorts.
      did you pick out shoes yet?

  7. aboogy123456 - Feb 25, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    I honestly think if Howard can keep playing well (big IF) this team can win it all. They also have pau gasol coming back if they do make the playoffs and they need him as we saw yesterday when Dwight got into foul trouble.

    • cosanostra71 - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      If the LAKERS are going to win it all, I think it will require the bench stepping up more than it will Howard. Getting Pau back will certainly help on that front, but I’m not very impressed by the bench really.

  8. LA_RichSprts - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    why are ppl trying to make basketball like “moneyball” by bringing up these stupid metric stats. u dont have to be a genius to see why the Lakers are finally winning.

    1) D’Antoni isnt experimenting w/ the rotation anymore.
    2) Howard is in better physical shape therefore making him more effective defensively.
    3) The bench is actually scoring.
    4) Kobe is playing like true leader and creating shots for his teammates.
    5) Bc the offense is finally coming together, the lakers arent scrambling as much on defense as they were earlier in the season.

    STOP THIS METRICS BS! Just WATCH the games.

    • Kurt Helin - Feb 26, 2013 at 6:58 PM

      Guys like myself who use metrics generally watch a lot more games than you.

  9. polarbearsquares - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    Can’t really remember the last story on this site titled “X team is hot but are they really playing that well?” Hmmm.

    Such is the coverage of the Lakers. If they win, they must’ve got some beneficial calls. You think Kobe is clutch? Well ha! It just looks that way. He’s really not. Lakers won 11 of last 15? Psst. Big deal. They just sucked so much early that it looks like they’re getting better but its all luck you see.


    • zacksdad - Feb 25, 2013 at 4:55 PM

      I think the Jets get the same type of coverage.

  10. pantsfreezone - Feb 25, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    I believe the Lakers are old. Like the Celtics, they will make the playoffs and bow out 4-1 in the first round. If New York and Chicago fail as well (good chance of this) it will be an all awesome cities only NBA playoffs with Miami capturing a second straight title and third straight Finals appearance.

  11. sportsnut101 - Feb 25, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    Lakers are like tebow story when will they stop talking about it gees. Is their only heat n lakers in this league

  12. kb2408 - Feb 25, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    Dwight’s not old. And Kobe ain’t playing old! The LAKERS probably won’t win it all this season but you haters have to know they won’t be down for very long. I say down because anything short of going to the Finals is a down season for the LAKERS. But after next season the LAKERS are going to have tons of cash to spend on an elite free agent (or two) AND a completely healthy D12. Don’t know when Kyrie can get out of Cleveland but wouldn’t he look nice in PURPLE AND GOLD? Or, perhaps Kevin Love and D12 together on the frontline?

  13. badintent - Feb 25, 2013 at 10:02 PM

    As Earl Clark goes, the Lakers go. He’s the only guy playing both ends constantly night in , night out.It ‘s no concidence that the Lakers started winning more when he started getting big minutes.Better pray Laker fans he don’t get hurt.

  14. omniusprime - Feb 26, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    I don’t think the Lakers are any better now than early in the season, they’re just beating the crappy teams more consistently at home. It all boils down to the pathetic coaching of Dumbtoni, he’s the weakest link for the Lakers. Next is too old Trash Nash and incompetent Steve Flake, the two worst point guards the Lakers could have.

    Look how Denver wiped the floor with the Lakers on the back end of back-to-back games last night. Even short handed the Nuggets made the Lakers look old and pathetic. Another monumental coaching failure leads to another Laker loss. It also shows how important Pau Gasol is to the Lakers.

    Thanks Dr. Buss, Rest in Peace!!! Fire Dumbtoni!!! Trade Trash Nash and Steve Flake!!!

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