The Los Angeles Lakers rank 10th in free throw attempts per game this season, a number that — on the surface — seems completely reasonable. However, led by Anthony Davis, the Lakers shoot a higher percentage of their shots from two-point range than any of the nine teams ahead of them in that category.
Frank Vogel’s offense has largely been reliant on getting to the rim and posting up. In fact, the Lakers shoot the third-most shots in the NBA from five feet or less away from the basket. So with those numbers, it stands to reason that the Lakers should get to the line more.
However, officials have changed the way they’ve called games this season, more frequently opting to swallow their whistles and only call blatantly obvious fouls.
Vogel discussed how this has affected the Lakers and what they can do to combat it. “I know that the percentage of Anthony’s shots are the rim is higher this year than any of his career, but the free throw attempts are obviously way down,” Vogel said. “But I think this is part of what’s happening league-wide. They’re allowing more play-ons and it’s supposed to be on non-basketball moves but it seems to be carrying over to a lot of other situations as well.
“So we’re just trying to help our guys adjust to the way the game’s being called now, less situations where we’re seeking out contact and more situations where if seeking contact, it’s to create a path to finish, not to go to the basket seeking a whistle, which is how I think the game should be played quite frankly. But it is something that we’ve talked about with our group in terms of making that adjustment.”
The Lakers definitely seek out contact at the rim, mainly because that’s how guys like Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook have been conditioned to play over the past decade or so, as shooters became more and more protected in the way games were called.
But they now need to adjust, as it’s taking players out of their rhythms and leading to bad offensive possessions. Turning the ball over or missing layups due to the expectation of a foul call isn’t helping their defense either, as it allows opponents to get out and run.
Vogel and his staff must help make the necessary adjustments to either get to the rim without worrying about contact, or shifting their focus to getting the ball out on the perimeter for three-pointers. L.A. ranks 22nd in three-point attempts but 12th in percentage.
James: Lakers need to play with sense of urgency
One thing that could be holding the Lakers back is a general lack of effort. James took notice of this after their blowout loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday. “No, it’s never ‘we got 65 games left.’ We damn sure need to play better, no matter who’s in the lineup,” the four-time NBA champion said.
“We have our system and we need to obviously fast track it and get better with it to where we can play, no matter who is out on the floor, we could play at a high level. So it’s never that we got 65 games and we’ll figure it out then, but there’s no level of panic.
“But there should be some sense of urgency anytime we hit the floor and I felt like we had that at moments throughout this game tonight and then at some points throughout the game we didn’t. So we got to figure how we can keep that sense of urgency for as close to 48 minutes possible compared to the other side.”
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