The Lakers came out of the gate energized on the defensive end as they rotated on a string and made sure to contest every shot they could. Los Angeles would for most of the game and eventually pulled away in the second half to earn the impressive victory.
The turnaround in the second half could be primarily attributed to a great adjustment from head coach Frank Vogel as he trotted out a lineup that featured Anthony Davis at center. Davis, who has not been shy about letting his positional preference known, looked like a completely different player as he was able to control the paint and space the floor.
Vogel revealed that he had spoken to Davis at halftime about making the change and it seems that Davis was more than happy to do it.
“Well, we were shooting 34 percent offensively and Rudy is a problem for any offense going against their defense,” Vogel shared.
“If you have another center out there where he’s rolling to the basket, he can kinda play centerfield and clog things up, so Anthony and I talked about and he was all for it and wanted to do it.”
The Lakers primarily used Davis alongside one of JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard in their game against the Los Angeles Clippers, but it appears that Vogel realized that going small with him at center was the team’s best option to unclog the offense while still maintaining their defensive intensity. The centers on the roster were signed to keep Davis from having to battle opposing bigs all season long, but the game against Utah showed just how deadly Los Angeles can be with Davis holding down the middle.
In the second half, Davis consistently challenged any guards that got into the paint and was able to deter or alter any shots at the rim. He eventually finished with five blocks and two steals, providing the defensive effort that fans have seen in recent seasons.
Davis’ willingness to play center also has a ripple effect on the rest of the roster as it places players like LeBron James in their natural position.
A Davis-James small-ball lineup with shooters surrounding them may end up being their most optimal lineup and Vogel would be wise to explore those combinations further.