A staggering statistic has emerged for the Lakers. It does not just involve the Lakers losing three consecutive exhibition games by double-digit margins. It also goes beyond the Lakers conceding more than 100 points in those contests after spending most of training camp revamping their defense.
The Lakers have also failed to replicate one of their lone strengths from last season’s disaster that ended with the worst record in L.A. franchise history. The Lakers cannot hit three-pointers, entering Sunday’s game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center averaging a league-worst 20.7 percent from shots beyond the arc. They have gone 1-of-19 from three-point range in the past three games and have gone through an 11 1/2 quarter-drought since making a shot from behind the arc.
The simple explanation partly stems from ongoing injuries to Steve Nash (back spasms), Jeremy Lin (sprained left ankle), Nick Young (right thumb), Ryan Kelly (strained left hamstring), Jordan Clarkson (left calf muscle) and Xavier Henry (back spasms), players that can both attack the basket to open up the floor and can outside shots with dependable accuracy.
“When you have all three of your shooters out, it’s kind of hard,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “It would be nice to have those guys back. But that’s a fantasy now.”
Yet, Scott also believes it’s a fantasy that the Lakers should adopt the league-wide trend that puts a premium on 3-point shooting. While teams last year averaged 21.5 attempts per game, Scott said he hopes the Lakers take anywhere between 12-15 3-point shots once they have a fully healthy roster.
“I don’t believe it wins championships,” Scott said. “It gets you to the playoffs.”
Actually, the 3-point shot can help teams win NBA championships. Seven of the last eight NBA championship teams led the league in both three-point shooting and attempts, including the 2014 San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs led the NBA last season in three-point shooting (40.9 percent) and attempts (21.5) during the postseason, while the second-place Miami heat trailed not too far behind with a 39.6 percent clip from three-point range on 23.5 attempts. Last season, only two NBA teams matched Scott’s range of his team taking 12-15 3-pointers per game, including the New Orleans Pelicans (15.9) and Memphis Grizzlies (14).
So why does Scott oppose the 3-point shot when he finished his second season with the Lakers in the 1984-85 campaign leading the NBA in outside shooting?
“A lot of teams live and die by it,” Scott said. “Teams, general managers and coaches draft that way to space the floor as much as possible. But when you have shooters like that, you need guys who can penetrate and get to the basket. You see a lot of teams that are going to that style of basketball.”
The Lakers were among one of those teams last year, finishing third in three-point shooting (38.1 percent) on 24.7 attempts per game. But that hardly stopped the Lakers from avoiding their worst record in L.A. franchise history.
Scott’s imprint on the Lakers have proven different.
He has vowed to put more emphasis on the team’s defense. The Lakers have run a Princeton-based offense that feature two guard fronts operating either pick-and-roll or setting post players up along the posts and elbows. The Lakers have also played at a more deliberate pace than when they did under D’Antoni’s up-tempo system.
Can such an idea work?
“That’s a good question,” Lin said. “I don’t know. I’m new to this as well. And I don’t have that much experience in terms of the Princeton offense or things like that. I know that it can work. I know that it has worked. And I think our job is to figure out how to do it. I don’t think it makes sense for us to scrap everything.”
So how do the Lakers follow those tenets while still improving their marks from three-point range?
“Getting them out on the break and try to get them early,” Scott said. “That’s not our style right now. We just have to be a grind team. Our spacing has to be better. We have to do a better job of setting screens and making harder cuts.”