The Los Angeles Lakers looked nothing like the team that their fans have become accustomed to see, falling flat on both ends in their 99-90 Game 1 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
The Lakers largely struggled offensively, shooting slightly above 43% from the field and a dreadful 27% from deep. They were also poor from the free-throw line, nailing only about 61% from the charity stripe.
Defensively they were OK as they managed to hold Phoenix to only 99 points but had issues against the star guard tandem of Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Despite the loss, head coach Frank Vogel did not seem too rattled and even believes his team played hard.
“I thought our guys played with great intensity,” Vogel said. “I think we got taken out of a lot of things that we wanted to do offensively. Phoenix had a week to prepare for us. Credit to them for doing a great job with that and we just got to execute a little bit better on the offensive side of the ball. We got to rebound a little bit better defensively and we got to make shots.
“We missed nine layups and 11 free throws and didn’t have a great shooting night at the three-point line, but those things will come back around and we’ve got to look at the tape and figure out a way to get better for Game 2.”
Losing Game 1 is a familiar feeling for Los Angeles as they dropped it twice during their 2020 title run and Vogel reiterated he and the coaching staff are not panicking yet.
“A little bit, but this is a different team,” Vogel said when asked if the Game 1 loss is comparable to last year. “Last year’s team was last year’s team and we have guys returning, but we have a different group and we got to approach it differently, so we’re very confident in the team that we have. I know that much. Confident in what we’re going to do in terms of looking at the tape and making adjustments for Game 2.”
Vogel has shown that he can make adjustments in-game in the past, but that was the case against Phoenix in Game 1 as he kept his normal rotation throughout most of the afternoon. For example, Andre Drummond played more than expected with the Lakers trailing by double digits and Vogel did not turn to Anthony Davis at center until the fourth quarter.
While it was frustrating to watch, Vogel has also displayed an ability to make effective changes from game-to-game so it stands to reason that he will throw different looks at the Suns in Game 2. The center rotation is a good place to start given how the Suns took advantage of players like Drummond and Montrezl Harrell and it will be interesting to see whether or not he goes to Davis at the five earlier.
Vogel on how both teams responded to Paul’s injury
One thing it looked like the Lakers would be able to take advantage of was Paul’s injury as he hurt his shoulder in the second quarter and did not look like himself the rest of the way.
The Lakers made a solid run when he first went out but then eventually gave it all back before suffering the loss.
“You know the other team is going to be on high alert when they lose a guy like Chris and we have intent to take advantage at every minute of the game, so it’s not anything where we’re going to try to up our intensity when we’re playing at maximum intensity anyway,” Vogel said.
“I don’t know what that exact stretch ended up looking like, but we were back in the game before we knew it and didn’t give it any more thought.”
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