By Matt Esposito
In last night’s victory, the Los Angeles Lakers shot 14-39 from deep, reaching a percentage of 35.9. Considering the Lakers remained in the bottom third in three-point percentage for the majority of the season, this was not surprising. Yet, it was the quality of the shots that has me thinking that this game was not as close as it appeared.
Yes, it is cliche to discuss how today’s Association is a “make or miss league.” We get it. But some nights the shots simply don’t fall. In spite of this, LA still managed a victory. And even though hitting just south of 36 percent of their triples was an accomplishment for the Lakers, I will detail why that number should have been higher. Plus, it was the way in which Los Angeles generated these shots that was both impressive and ominous for the Heat.
I looked through a bevy of missed shots from beyond the arc. Guess what? The overwhelming majority of them came from kickouts that were sparked by an effective paint drives. What’s more, most of these specific missed shots could be classified as open, wide-open or very lightly contested. In other words, the Lakers were inches away from truly commanding this game from start to finish.
Go through the tape yourself. Count up how many misses came off of open shots. Although I assuredly sound like a biased Lakers fan right now (trust me, I’m not – go Cs!), I interpreted this as a massive sign of trouble for Miami. In a closeout game, the Lakers should smell blood in the water and hit more of these attempts.
Surrendering this amount of clean looks to a middling/below average three-point shooting team is surely a gamble. It almost paid off last night as Miami was within striking distance during closing time. But even a subpar perimeter shooting team will salivate over these attempts. If the Heat continue to allow these looks, then the Lakers should expect to hoist a trophy come Friday night.
Moreover, expect to close harder and react faster to these attempts. When they do, LA will likely be ready with a counter; one that sees them attacking closeouts to find dunker spot bigs waiting for easy lobs.