There’s something fitting about Frank Vogel’s final stand arriving in Indiana. His Lakers got to where many of his greatest defensive feats ranked 20th at the bottom of that floor, but the persistence coach stuck with DeAndre Jordan and Avery Bradley—Two alternate level players by most stats — in his starting lineup. That approach kept the Lakers on track for much of the night. Dropping seven points in the fourth quarter and facing the prospect of a 1-4 loss, Vogel finally gave in.
Up until that point in the season, he’d played just eight minutes without a single Jordan player, Dwight Howard or Anthony Davis on the floor. The Lakers went through most of the next 15 games with none of them… and won 15 points. A seven-point deficit becomes an eight-point win in extra time once LeBron James become their center. The Lakers exited their road trip with a .500 record and newfound clarity. They won the championship with defence in 2020. They will need to improve at the end of that tier if they plan to do so again in 2022, but the roster they have right now is one in teams that need to win by attacking. That’s how it can best enhance its two main ball handlers.
The game against Indiana wasn’t their first foray with smallball. They originally tested it to kick off Q4 with Boston, and the result was one of the Russell Westbrookbetter times of the season. With so many shots on the floor, he can get on the basket with ease.
If you’re wondering why nobody helped Westbrook at the basket, here’s what happened when Boston tried.
Welcome to basketball in the 2020s. With no big boys on the field, they’re forcing Boston to choose between a Westbrook layout or an open 3-wing layout. Nothing all the novels here. The Lakers were late to the party. Westbrook averaged nearly 32 points on nearly 55 perfect shots between the 2020 trading deadline and the league’s COVID hiatus largely due to Rocket completely abandon the central position.
They do this because they know their people well. With another high-use pitcher pulling, the Rockets couldn’t have many non-shooters on the floor, so they sacrificed themselves. Clint Capela because the Robert Covington hoping to get the most out of Westbrook. The Lakers cannot and should not promote that. They have Anthony Davis, and Davis will play the majority of Laker games. Where this experiment becomes more important is in the minutes and sitting Davis game.
The Lakers win 2020 defensively because they have a squad built to play defensively. The same cannot be said. The Lakers don’t have a roster designed to play big. Jordan is simply not a NBA– Senior player since joining the Lakers. Dwight Howard has played better and is still needed in certain games, but is less valuable in a vacuum than most of the players on the Lakers roster. Davis is so good that squad optimization is no more important than talent. Jordan and Howard are not. The Lakers have built a squad full of strikers. On Friday, they let them score. Plays like this show how much those scorers can amplify each other.
Wayne Ellington made both shots, but creating them was a team effort. Malcolm Brogdon may have chased Ellington the first time around, but the alternative would be a Carmelo Anthony. Chris Duarte could have been at home on monday, but that would have taken some time to Talen Horton-Tucker. Put enough players and shooters together on the floor and eventually a defense will lead to an acceptable outcome. They had no choice but to choose their own poison, and they would use any method that substituted James driving down an appropriately spaced floor. NS Pacers regularly raise 3 spikes to put pressure on the LeBron penalty area.
This, again, rules out any positive outcome for the excuse. If they switch places, James will go head-to-head with an unsuitable opponent knowing that the defense is not capable enough to help. Go down too far and he will pull himself up and shoot 3 people. He has done significantly more this season. His career-high 7.9 3-pointers-per-game matches coincided with a drop in points in the penalty area — from 8.3 per game in the 2020 championship to 6.2 in the regular season. this. No one will be surprised to learn that a 36-year-old player who has played through his 19th season isn’t as easy on the basket as he once did, especially when playing alongside a no-shot threat at Westbrook. . Removing a big man from the equation would minimize the damage Westbrook could do to the ball by allowing him to drive under more favorable conditions.
The downside, of course, is that competitors see the same benefits. Getting to the basket becomes significantly easier when there is no center between the basket and them. The Lakers had a hard time keeping the guards away from the perimeter even as Davis lay on the floor. Their offensive point defense is probably their worst trait as a team, so going micro just creates more attacks. The Lakers have to switch more screens when they play this small, and that leads to mismatches. In the post, at least, the Lakers are betting that looks won’t be effective enough to kill them, like this Domantas Sabonis miss Monk Malik.
The 2019-20 Rockets made a similar bet: sacrificing size eliminates bounces and layout, but the added speed and activity come with other advantages. The spin is a big one. James can create them while providing a measure of rim protection. He’s one of the best low-backs in basketball.
The removal of the safety net of the traditional rim protection device is said to even have a psychological effect on the defence. Its durability is impossible to predict, but it has a way of turning bad defenders into, at least, active players.
These are ultimately small victories. Lakers do not have personnel to play good less central defenders. A sensible goal isn’t too bad to sacrifice the offensive benefits of the size reduction, although Vogel’s history suggests that he will hold any lineup to a higher defensive standard than that. Finding the right personnel will be essential on that front.
Can the Lakers use these small formations without James on the field as a pseudo-midfielder? If James and Westbrook use them together, will Talen Horton-Tucker be able to act as the main ball handler when the two MVPs come on from the bench? Between James, Westbrook and Davis, which of their three superstars is the Lakers most comfortable playing alone?
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There are no easy answers here. It will be tested throughout the season, and it’s Friday’s Pacers game. The Lakers found something effective in large part because they pushed aside stereotypes about what their team should be like and put an emphasis on the players they actually had. There are still twists and turns to work on either side of the ball, but the only way to maximize all of this team’s tackles and shots is to use it for real. After resisting throughout the first part of the season, the Lakers finally accepted their roster on Wednesday and were rewarded with a win.
https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/lakers-finally-embrace-their-offense-first-roster-by-going-small-in-win-over-the-pacers/ Lakers finally grabbed their first offensive line-up with a small win over the Pacers