Coming out of a 3-game losing streak to Miami, Orlando and Indiana, the Lakers were the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting team, making about a fourth of their attempts (26.4 percent), about the percentage that Jack Nicholson and Denzel Washington might convert from their courtside seats (OK, not really).
Despite the presence of marksman like free agent signings Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono, and veterans who’ve proven the ability to knock down the three like Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Matt Barnes, this wasn’t shocking. After all, it’s clear that the truncated training camp, a complete lack of practice time due to the NBA’s busiest early-season schedule (18 games in 28 days) and new rotations that had players unsure about where they’d be getting their shots was making an impact not just on the 3-point shooting, but on the offense itself.
But after that narrow loss to the Pacers on Jan. 22, the schedule slowed down for the first time, L.A. playing “only” four games in the next nine days (winning three), which allowed head coach Mike Brown to run some contact practices for the first time since camp. He acknowledged that time to iron things out in practice has led directly to a more effective offense.
“It has to do with execution, just a better feel and a comfort level,” said Brown after Wednesday’s practice, then using his backup 4 as an example. “Less than two weeks ago, Troy (Murphy) was lost as a brand new puppy dog out there, and finally we had two or three contact practices and now it’s to a point where we’re able to teach in a live setting, stop it, redo it four or five times if we have to and it’s paid off for us.”
Take the example of 3-point shooting in the last four contests:
- vs. Charlotte: 12-of-26 (Murphy 4-of-4, bench 10-of-14, Kobe 2-for-2 before nine straight misses)
- at Minnesota: 8-for-19 (Kobe 5-for-9, Murphy 2-for-3)
- at Milwaukee: 6-for-19 (Kobe 1-for-5, Goudelock 3-for-5)
- vs Clippers: 8-for-16 (Fisher 3-of-4)
That’s a total of 34-for-80, or 42.5 percent, which would rank first in the NBA, just ahead of Boston’s 41.5 percent. Due to the uber-slow shooting start, L.A. still has a long way to go, but has already jumped four spots in the past week to rank 26th at 29.4 percent from three.
Brown’s best shooter thus far has been Murphy, a career 39 percent triple sniper who at 6-10 with a quick, direct release almost always gets a good look off. This season, he’s connected on 11 of his 23 attempts to lead the team at 47.8 percent, boosted by that 4-of-4 . Close behind is rookie Andrew Goudelock, who displayed crazy range throughout his career at College of Charleston and has made 10-of-23 triples for L.A. (43.5 percent), helping him reach double figures in scoring off the bench in three of the last four games.
On Wednesday’s “Mason and Ireland” show on 710 ESPN, Murphy said that part of the reason he’s gotten good looks of late is that Goudelock has proven adept at running the pick and roll. Since opponents have to respect Goudelock’s shot, he’s been able to draw an extra defender, and then dish off to an open Murphy, who is quite good at popping off the screen to free himself for a three.
Still more open threes have been created by any one of three Lakers stars who draw double teams, though Andrew Bynum’s ability to do so with a second unit filled with shooters (Goudelock, Murphy, Kapono and Barnes) could be of particular use to L.A., a bit like Orlando tries to operate around Dwight Howard.
Brown figures that the more continuity his players gain being on the court together, the better this aspect of the offense can be. If so, L.A. won’t be ranking 26th in the NBA from 3-point range for much longer.