Six Analytical Reasons The Lakers Have Improved This Month

Players, coaches and management often talk about the “little things” that win basketball games.

These standard cliches and generic quotes lead to the rolling of many eyeballs around the world, but minute adjustments can actually make a difference in a team’s results and could even help change the public’s perception of a team.

Case in point: The 2012-2013 edition of the Los Angeles Lakers. At the beginning of the month, the Lakers stood at 20-26 and in crisis mode. Would the team trade Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol? Was Kobe Bryant secretly (or not so secretly) feuding with Howard?

In what has been a tumultuous season in a ravenous media market, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has subtly made some changes that have quietly paid dividends. The Lakers are 8-4 in February and within striking distance of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

How has this improvement been achieved? The following six factors tell part of the story:

1. Kobe Bryant is shooting less

Much has been made about Bryant’s more “passive” and “selfless” play of late, but the metrics clearly favor the Lakers when Kobe shoots it fewer than 20 times per contest. In fact, NBA.com’s new stats page shows that Bryant averages 18.07 shots per game in wins and a whopping 22.8 in losses, a difference of nearly five per game.

If we look at how many shots Bryant has taken per game by month, we can see that the fewer shots Bryant averaged, the higher was the Lakers’ winning percentage for that month.

KobeShots/GameLA Win %
November18.357.1
December25.450
January20.931.2
February17.466.7

 

This goes against Bryant’s primal nature to score 30 per game, but less is most certainly more for his team this season. And the stats clearly bear that out.

2. Improvement from the free throw line

In November and February, the two good months for the Lakers, they have dominated the opposition in free throws per game. The Lakers averaged a healthy 26.5 free throws this month, good for fourth in the NBA, according to ESPN.

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  1. JMoney says

    I don’t know if I agree with #1. Kobe’s FGA is back over 20+ since the AS break and they are still winning. I think the Lakers have found their roles now that they’ve got a consistent lineup.

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