Fun With Lakers-Suns Shot Location Data
Digging into the shot-location data from Hoopdata, and the play-type data from My Synergy Sports for the Lakers-Suns series revealed several pieces of information that I found fascinating. Let's get right to it.
1. BATTLE OF THE PHX 3-POINT LINE
For a series that featured such high-powered offensive performances, arguably the decisive statistic was a defensive victory for the Lakers.
The Suns were the no. 1 team in the regular season in 3PT% at .412. Meanwhile, L.A. was the no. 1 team in defensive 3PT% at .328.
So, the Phoenix three-point line was a key battleground, and it's fair to say that the Lakers scored a huge win in holding the Suns to just a .329 percentage from behind the arc. To put it into perspective, only two teams (NJ, DET) shot worse than .329 on threes for the regular season.
To add insult to injury, the Lakers - who shot just .341 on threes for the season (rank: 24) - outshot the Suns from downtown for the series, connecting on a .369 mark which was bettered by only six teams for the season.
2009-10 REGULAR SEASON2. KOBE ON FIRE FROM OUTSIDE
TEAM 3PM 3PA 3P% RK
PHX O 8.9 21.6 .412 1
LAL D 6.3 19.3 .328 1
LAL O 6.5 19.0 .341 24
PHX D 6.8 19.3 .355 17
2010 CONFERENCE FINALS
TEAM 3PM 3PA 3P%
PHX O 8.2 24.8 .329
LAL O 8.7 23.5 .369
The headline story of L.A.'s series-clinching Game 6 victory was the jaw-dropping array of shots nailed by Kobe Bryant under duress on the perimeter.
One of the better features on Hoopdata is the ability to see field-goal shooting numbers from different distances on the floor. In Game 6, Bryant hit on 6-11 "long 2-pointers" (shots from 16-23 feet, inside the 3pt line) along with 3-8 three-pointers, continuing a series-long trend of excellent outside shooting by Kobe.
The Suns actually executed their game plan of forcing Kobe to shoot contested long 2's, but Bryant vastly outshot his normal numbers on long 2's in the series.
In the regular season, Kobe shot .415 on long 2's, and in the first two playoff series, he was down to just .353 from 16-23 feet. However, against Phoenix, Bryant was a remarkable .580 on long 2's, connecting on 29-50.
On top of that, Bryant also made 19-44 (.432) threes for the series, dwarfing his regular-season numbers not only in percentage (.329), but also in makes (3.2 per game, vs. 1.2 in the season).
Whether Kobe can keep his hot shooting going could be a key to The Finals. A linchpin of Boston's defensive strategy is to force Bryant into long 2's, and Kobe hit on just 14-39 (.358) of long 2's in the 2008 Finals.
KOBE ON LONG TWOS (16-23 FOOTERS)3. THE BEST LONG-TWO SHOOTING YOU'LL EVER SEE
FGM FGA FG%
v PHX 4.8 8.3 .580
v OK/UT 1.8 5.1 .353
09-10 2.5 6.0 .415
KOBE ON THREE-POINTERS
FGM FGA FG%
v PHX 3.2 7.3 .432
v OK/UT 1.5 4.0 .375
09-10 1.2 3.7 .329
In the modern NBA, it's commonly understood that the most efficient shots are those taken at the rim and behind the three-point line. The most effective defensive strategy, generally, is to try to force long two-point shots, which are the least efficient shots in basketball.
In the Western Conference Finals, it wasn't just Kobe who was knocking down the long 2's. Indeed, one of the reasons that the offensive-efficiency numbers were so high for both L.A. and Phoenix was that the shooting on long 2's was off the charts for both teams.
The league average on 16-23 footers for the season was a percentage of .396, yet in this series, the Lakers shot .530 on long 2's (.398 on season), and the Suns were even better, at .549 (.411 on season).
Remarkably, long 2's were more efficient shots for Phoenix in this series than 3-pointers. Consider the statistic "effective field-goal percentage" (eFG%), which counts each made three-pointer as 1.5 field-goals made, to take into account the extra point earned on the shot.
For the regular season, the Suns had an eFG% of .619 on threes and .411 on long 2's. In the conference finals, though, Phoenix had an eFG% of just .493 on threes and .549 on long 2's - truly remarkable that the Suns were blistering on long 2's, but ice-cold on threes.
REGULAR SEASON LONG TWOS (16-23 FOOTERS)Beyond Kobe, the guys who were probably most notable in terms of shooting long 2's were Derek Fisher and Steve Nash.
FGM FGA FG%
NBA AVG 8.1 20.3 .396
LAL 7.2 18.0 .398
PHX 7.6 18.5 .411
CONFERENCE FINALS LONG TWOS (16-23 FOOTERS)
FGM FGA FG%
LAL 10.2 19.2 .530
PHX 9.3 17.0 .549
Fisher has been out of his mind on long 2's for the entire month of May, with a staggering .636 percentage against both Phoenix (14-22) and Utah (7-11), after connecting on .419 during the regular season.
Meanwhile, Nash was also deadly on long 2's, making 15-24 (.625) for the series, after posting a .464 percentage from 16-23 feet during the season. However, 6-22 (.273) shooting on threes for Nash - well below his season pct. of .426 - essentially negated his prowess on long 2's.
4. LAKERS: 3PA VS. FTA/"AT RIM" ATTEMPTS
It will be interesting to see how L.A. attacks the Celtics defense, for the data over the course of the playoffs indicates that the Lakers are still much more successful when they shoot a lot of free throws and shots at the rim, despite the outside shooting heroics of Kobe and friends during the Suns series.
The Lakers have a gaudy record of 12-4 in this playoff season. For the sake of argument for this statistical evaluation, let's consider their four narrow wins (Game 2 v OKC, Game 6 v OKC, Game 3 v UTH, Game 5 v PHX) to be "losses", to better isolate when L.A.'s been at its best:
• When the Lakers shoot more "At Rim" shots than 3-pointers, they are 7-2 (1-6 vice versa)
• When L.A. shoots at least as many free throws as 3-pointers, they are 8-2 (0-6 vice versa)
In L.A.'s four double-digit wins of the postseason, their average shot attempts are as follows:
- - At Rim: 31.0
- Free Throws: 30.8
- Long 2's: 17.0
- Threes: 16.0
Despite their outside-shooting prowess vs. the Suns, it would seem to be risky for L.A. to fall in love with the jump shot going forward, as that would likely be playing right into the hands of the Celtics.
As much as L.A.'s defense vs. the Phoenix three-point game was a huge factor in the conference finals, the matchup of Boston's interior defense vs. L.A.'s inside offense could be decisive in The Finals.
5. LAKERS: SPOT-UPS/ISOLATIONS VS. POST-UPS
The Synergy Sports breakdown of the Lakers-Suns series reveals some interesting data on how L.A. attacked the Phoenix defense.
During the regular season, a total of 31.6% of L.A.'s offensive plays were "Spot-Ups" (17.5%) or "Isolations" (14.1%), while 19.2% were "Post-Ups".
In the Phoenix series, however, a total of 43.8% of Laker offensive plays were "Spot-Ups" (28.2%) or "Isolations" (15.6%), while just 10% were "Post-Ups".
The key individual player who factored into this change was, of course, Kobe.
During the regular season, 37% of Bryant's offensive plays were "Isolations" (28.5%) or "Spot-Ups" (8.5%), while 22.2% were "Post-Ups".
Against Phoenix, there was a jump all the way to 61.6% of Kobe's plays being "Spot-Ups" (37.2%) or "Isolations" (24.4%), while "Post-Ups" dropped all the way to 2.9%.
It's understandable that Kobe avoided the post vs. the Suns, considering he was guarded by bigger players like Jared Dudley and Grant Hill, not to mention that Phoenix played a lot of zone, which meant that Bryant encountered even bigger players down on the blocks.
As one might expect based on his outside shooting, Kobe had huge increases in points per play for both his "Spot-Ups" and his "Isolations".
It'll be interesting to see if Boston - with stronger defenders like Paul Pierce and Tony Allen - will be able to keep Kobe out of the post as well. It seems like a tall order to expect Kobe to continue to perform so efficiently in spot-up and isolation situations.
LAKERS OFFENSIVE PLAYS
% OF OFF PTS PER PLAY
SPOT-UPS (09-10) 17.5 1.00
SPOT UPS (v PHX) 28.2 1.13
ISOS (09-10) 14.1 0.85
ISOS (v PHX) 15.6 1.01
POST-UPS (09-10) 19.2 0.93
POST UPS (v PHX) 10.0 1.06
KOBE OFFENSIVE PLAYS
% OF OFF PTS PER PLAY
SPOT-UPS (09-10) 8.5 1.06
SPOT UPS (v PHX) 24.4 1.38
ISOS (09-10) 28.5 0.95
ISOS (v PHX) 37.2 1.14
POST-UPS (09-10) 22.2 0.98
POST UPS (v PHX) 2.9 0.80