The Lakers also lead the league in what I will call “free throw plus-minus,” or the number of attempts a team shoots compared to its opponent. Its average for the season is 7.1, and LA even managed to improve on that this month.
|FT Attempts||LA FT/Gm||Opp FT/Gm||FTA +/-|
Now, hitting those free throws is another story entirely. In the horrid 5-11 January stretch, the Lakers’ free throw percentage was 5.8 percentage points lower than its opposition. Though the change is mainly due to luck – how else could you chalk up your opponents’ shooting over 6 percent worse from the line in a month? – the Lakers had a better percentage than their opponents in February for the first time this season.
|Converting FT||LA FT%||Opp FT%||FT % DIFF|
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3. Improved Shot Selection
It’s becoming gospel around the league that the best shots to take are either at the rim, 3-pointers or foul shots. Just ask Daryl Morey. The Lakers have clearly been paying attention, because the team has been taking higher-percentage shots since the first of the month. NBA.com breaks down shooting tendencies from different distances on the floor, and it’s paid dividends.
Notice how LA had more attempts closer to the rim at a higher percentage than in January? The Lakers have taken four fewer long-range shots (of at least 24 feet) per game at a higher percentage as well. The team’s mid-range percentages are basically a wash, but the small changes in shot selection has made a world of difference.
4)The New Core Four
Remember how excited people were about the Lakers’ fearsome foursome of Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash? Well, people who doubted the Lakers correctly
noticed that the team wasn’t especially deep. Bench scoring has been in the bottom third of the league all season, 26th overall, according to HoopsStats.
But as the season has progressed, the team has found a pretty nice supporting quartet in Antawn Jamison, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark and Jodie Meeks. Injuries to Nash and Howard forced others to maintain prominent roles in the rotation, and the four-man group has put up improved numbers each month.