The Los Angeles Lakers maintaining one of the best defenses in the NBA has been arguably the biggest surprise of the season. They have allowed 102.5 points per 100 possessions, the eighth-best defense in the NBA, and success that is more surprising when considering how much they shoot their defense in the foot with turnovers.
The Lakers are currently coughing up the ball on 16.3 percent of their possessions, the third-worst mark in the NBA. Per game metrics paint an even more negative picture, as the Lakers’ 17.4 turnovers per contest rank second-to-last in the NBA.
Somewhat mitigating the issue is that the Lakers have allowed 1.07 points per play in transition, which ranks 14th in the league. But that still is worse than their average defense allows, meaning that the Lakers are at a disadvantage every time they cough up the rock and allow another break.
After a loss to the Denver Nuggets, in which the Lakers turned the ball over 21 times compared to just 12 for Denver, Julius Randle lamented the Lakers’ ongoing turnover problem, as seen on Spectrum SportsNet:
“[Turnovers] have been killing us all year. Eventually, we’ve just got to fix the problem. … We’ve got to stop losing games the same way, I believe. But we’re on the right path. For most of that game, we outplayed them, to be honest with you. We outplayed them for most of that game. There were just crucial times where they dug deep and we turned the ball over. Kind of killed ourselves.”
Turnovers are an issue for most young teams, but it’s still not surprising that Randle is frustrated that the Lakers are essentially giving free points to their opponents.
If the team would simply just get a shot off on half the possessions in which they turned the ball over instead, both their offense and defense would improve. In turn, that may lead to an improved record and avoiding losses to inferior teams.
If and when the Lakers learn to stifle their turnover tendencies a bit, the team will look a whole lot better. Until then, they’re going to lose to teams like the Nuggets who can take advantage, particularly in games on the road.
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