Despite conversation about the Los Angeles Lakers not being a very deep team, the role players once again played a huge role in another playoff victory.
Anthony Davis and LeBron James are the stars of course and lead the Lakers, but the contributions of the likes of Alex Caruso, Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can often go overlooked and head coach Frank Vogel specifically pointed that out.
In the Lakers’ 110-100 victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 4 of their Western Conference Semifinals series, the team had six players score in double-figures.
Alex Caruso finished with 16 points and knocked down a clutch 3-pointer to ice the game after a late Houston run. Rajon Rondo had another big game as well, flirting with a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Obviously much of the success of the Lakers’ role players is boosted by playing with James and Davis, but Vogel believes they don’t get enough credit for what they bring to the team.
“We’ve got two big guns in Anthony and LeBron, and I don’t think the rest of these guys get enough credit. We have a very, very deep team,” he said. “Guys not in the rotation that would be playing big minutes on other teams. It’s a team-first team.
“That’s what I love about our group here. Rondo, Alex, I was proud of Talen Horton-Tucker coming in and getting his first playoff minutes and playing really well. He’s got a bright future with us and he gave us a big lift in that first half. Just a good team win.”
While the Lakers’ role players may not be the most talented on paper, they fit together with the stars perfectly and excel at their role. It also makes the Lakers more dangerous that you never know which one of them will have a big game on any given night.
In Game 2 against the Rockets it was Markieff Morris knocking down four threes, Game 3 saw “Playoff Rondo” step up with 21 points and nine assists while Kyle Kuzma added 14. In addition to Caruso and Rondo’s contributions, Game 4 also saw Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a pair of threes each and rookie Talen Horton-Tucker give the team five points and two steals in unexpected minutes.
Stars will always get the attention, but Vogel believes in the depth of this team. The Lakers have the ability to play any style and Vogel will not hesitate to turn to any player on the roster if he believes they can give the Lakers a boost.
Vogel credits Lakers roster for ‘role acceptance’
Once the playoffs arrive a lot of pressure comes on the coaches to make the right adjustments within a series to help put their team over the top. With a team as versatile as the Lakers, Vogel constantly has difficult decisions to make as far as his rotations and lineups go.
Vogel made his biggest in Game 4 against the Rockets, replacing JaVale McGee in the starting lineup with Markieff Morris, and he is thankful that he has players who are accepting of their role on the team, regardless of what that may be.
“In particular in the playoffs, you get to certain series where one player’s skillset may make them more meaningful than it will in a different series,” Vogel noted.
“We have the flexibility and versatility to do those types of things, adjust from one half to another, from one game to another. Our guys have been wonderful about playing their part and doing whatever is asked of them.”
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