Frank Vogel Believes Lakers Are ‘Evolving’ As Defense After Subpar Performance Against Knicks
(Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers have fallen under .500, paying for their inconsistency yet again in Tuesday’s 106-100 loss to the New York Knicks.

L.A. started the game slowly, giving up 10 unanswered points in less than two minutes after the tip-off. The Lakers shot just 33.3% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc as the Knicks outscored them 36-20 in the first quarter.

Without the suspended LeBron James and with Anthony Davis battling an illness, Los Angeles willed themselves back into the game thanks to another big night from Russell Westbrook.

The Lakers even managed to wipe off the Knicks’ 25-point deficit at the end of the third period. But the Lakers eventually ran out of gas, allowing the Knicks to jump ahead — and far enough to deal them another loss of the current road trip.

“They scored on the first five possessions or something like that, so our execution on either side of the ball wasn’t good enough to start the game,” head coach Frank Vogel said.

“We didn’t know until about 20-30 minutes before the game Anthony [Davis] was going to go. But not a good enough start, but a hell of a fight by our guys to fight back in and compete the way they did.

“They’re competing their tails off to get Ws and just falling short, but we have to have a better start the last two games we’re playing uphill. That makes things difficult.”

Although Vogel praised his players’ determination against the Knicks, he admitted the Lakers still suffer too many defensive breakdowns.

“We’re evolving as a defense,” he said. “Our coaching staff is trying to be really creative with the personnel that we have and trying to put them in positions to succeed. There are some details to our man-to-man defense that are taking time for our guys to pick up when we’re having too many breakdowns, especially early in the game.

“But we’re also mixing in a ton of zone. That sometimes can impact your focus and assignments in man-to-man if you’re switching back and forth. So it’s just part of our evolution, and learning what we can do with this group on the defensive side of the ball, but there are definitely too many guys getting loose.

“I thought defensively, especially in the second half, we competed our tails off and most of their threes were tough shots. On a couple of them, guys got loose, but most of them were tough shots.”

Vogel praises Westbrook’s competitiveness

Westbrook registered another triple-double on Tuesday, scoring 31 points while adding 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Just like in the previous game against the Detroit Pistons, the 33-year-old guard was the main drive behind the Lakers’ comeback rally even if it didn’t end in a victory this time around.

Vogel offered Westbrook hefty praise after his gutsy performance against the Knicks.

“We’re finding ways where he’s really comfortable and trying to minimize ways where he’s been getting himself in trouble and I think that’s the integration process that there’s going to be some growing pains early, but we’re figuring it out and he’s bringing great competitive spirit in the absence of Bron when we’re shorthanded,” the coach said.

“He really willed us to the victory in Detroit and almost did the same tonight. We just fell short.”

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