The Los Angeles Lakers have hit a rut offensively over the last few weeks with the decline particularly manifested in their 3-point shooting efficiency.
L.A. flooded opponents with 3s in the first 15 games of the season, converting 39.1% of the attempts from downtown. During that stint, Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope featured among the NBA’s top 3-point shooters with an astonishing efficiency reaching percentages in the mid-50s.
However, the Lakers have only been shooting 32.1% from deep over the last 15 games. The defending NBA champions also attempt fewer shots from distance per game, 9.1 as compared to 12.5 in the first weeks of the 2020-21 campaign. The Denver Nuggets outscored L.A. from behind the 3-point line by 39, and the Brooklyn Nets had a 30-point advantage.
Despite the recent skid, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has implored the team to shoot more often. “I talked about that with our guys a few days ago and it was a big point of emphasis last game,” he said.
“We have to make better decisions in the paint. We want to shoot high-percentage shots in there, and if we don’t have a high-percentage shot, see the backside and play paint-to-great basketball.
“It’s something that I’m continuing to emphasize, but the counter argument to that is we’re one of the best points in the paint teams. So if we’re finishing at the rim and getting layups, we don’t necessarily need more 3s.”
Vogel added he wanted the 3-point efficiency to improve in order to unclog the paint and earn better shooting positions around the rim. And if the painted area remains tightly covered, he expects his players to kick the ball back and play paint-to-great basketball that became a staple of the team last season and in the first weeks of the current campaign.
Vogel believes that the Lakers had what it took to beat Brooklyn even without Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder. But he admitted that execution on the offensive end set the team back and has been a problem of late.
“We had plenty of firepower to win this basketball game and didn’t execute well enough offensively,” Vogel said. “We’ve got to generate better quality looks, continue to honor our work, and continue to give our guys the green light and encouragement to get that piece going.”
The Lakers grappled with a similar issue shortly after games restarted in the Orlando bubble last season. They couldn’t find an offensive rhythm and shot poorly from deep even though they managed to get a decent number of open looks.
Vogel then preached the law of averages, promising the trend would reverse and L.A. would make up for the missed shots – which they did, particularly in the latter stages of the playoffs.
Similarly, the coach is confident the current shooting slump will pass. “To start the season, we were shooting a little better than our expected average, and as of late we’re shooting a lot lower than our expected average,” he said.
“We’ll continue to emphasize working for shot quality and have our guys honor their work. Water will find its level.”
LeBron reaches 35,000 career points
James was shooting with a career-high efficiency from deep earlier in the season, but the four-time NBA champion’s aim has also worsened. Nevertheless, the 36-year-old is having an MVP-caliber season, averaging 25.9 points, 7.9 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game.
The exceptional form allowed James to reach yet another milestone passing the 35,000 career point mark on the all-time scoring list in the loss to Brooklyn. James is the league’s third-best scorer ever (35,017) behind Karl Malone in second (36,928), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar atop (38,387).
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