The Los Angeles Lakers were blown out by the Golden State Warriors Sunday night and no box score stat was more telling than the three-point shooting discrepancy. The Warriors let it fly against the Lakers from deep, connecting on 13 of their 33 attempts. The Lakers, on the other hand, only took a total of three attempts from beyond the arc and missed all of them. Yes, three attempts.
That spits in the face of those who champion modern analytics. Many expected Lakers head coach Byron Scott to be the "anti-Mike D'Antoni," preaching defense and limiting three-point attempts to directly respond to critics of the team's old coach. But the type of shot distribution the Lakers had Sunday defies the now-accepted idea that shooting more three-pointers is key to an effective offense. Los Angeles didn't even attempt a single corner three, one of the most efficient shots any team can take.
The three-point shooting problem was obvious. Here's a side-by-side comparison of each shot chart for the night:
The Warriors not only spread the floor with great efficiency, but in doing opened the rest of the floor for easy baskets -- especially at the rim, where they shot an astonishing 78.3 percent. The Lakers, on the other hand, struggled from everywhere in large part because they refused to stretch the defense.
Los Angeles has been settling on long two-point jumpers throughout the preseason, which was a glaring issue during the loss Sunday night.
"Spacing wasn't that good," Lakers head coach Byron Scott said following the loss. "Number one, we still didn't do a good job of setting screens to get each other open."
It wasn't just a matter of "screen setting," though. Spacing wasn't "that good" because the Lakers looked allergic to stepping behind the three-point line, instead running handoffs, post-ups and isolations in a slow, grinding offense. Worse, they were unable to put numbers on the board even while taking inefficient shots. Los Angeles started the game shooting 4-for-27 and didn't even attempt a three-point shot in the first quarter.
"We're not a particularly [good] three-point shooting team," Kobe Bryant said when asked about the lack of spacing.
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That may be true for the time being, since Nick Young, one of the team's best perimeter shooters, is nursing a torn thumb ligament. But they have three-point shooters sprinkled throughout the roster.
The problem is also magnified by their lack of dribble penetration. Steve Nash asked out of the game following the first quarter because he "didn't feel quite right," Jeremy Lin sprained his ankle during training camp, and Jordan Clarkson is out for at least one week after he strained his calf. The Lakers are also missing Xavier Henry, who proved to be an important part of their offense when healthy last season. All this means no driving, no kicking and no splashing.
"A lot of our guys that can really get to the basket and handle the ball and create something for themselves or their teammates weren't there tonight," Scott said when asked about the Lakers' struggles on offense. "That made it that much harder for Kobe because they were able to put two or three guys on him at times."
Still, Scott has been adamant the Lakers won't be a team that shoots a large number of threes, wanting to keep their attempts between 10-15 per game. That's a huge swing from the 24.8 attempts Los Angeles averaged last season, which was still only the sixth-highest mark in the league (tied with the Warriors, coincidentally). The Memphis Grizzlies averaged a league-low 14 three-point attempts per game last season, but this Lakers team will never be confused with the defensive juggernaut in Memphis.
Pecking away at a deficit with long two-pointers while an opponent gets "everything they wanted," as Scott said the Warriors did, is usually a futile effort. The Lakers found that out the hard way, as Golden State taught a clinic on how important three-point shooting is.
The question going forward: were the Lakers and Scott listening, or will they continue playing basketball like it's 1978?