The Los Angeles Lakers changed their starting lineup for the victorious double-header against the Houston Rockets, downsizing the unit by moving Anthony Davis to center.
Dwight Howard’s neck injury partly encouraged head coach Frank Vogel to switch things up for the clash against the Rockets. With one big man down, Vogel moved DeAndre Jordan to the bench and used him as Davis’ sub.
But the 28-year-old All-Star has said he was expecting to play at the five more often this year, nevertheless. Even though Jordan started every game until the first clash against the Rockets, Davis has spent more time on the floor playing the center position (63%) than as power forward (37%), according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Vogel said his recent experiment does not mean the Lakers are ditching bigger lineups. He added that Howard and Jordan were made aware that L.A. could transition to small-ball this season, explaining the last two years showed the Purple and Gold are the strongest when they use fluid rotations.
“They know that we’ve been our best over the last couple of years being a hybrid unit,” Vogel said of his centers.
“Sometimes AD plays the five, sometimes he’s at the four. They both knew that when they signed here and the whole mindset of our whole group is we’re trying to win a championship this year and whatever sacrifice is required, everybody is all in.
“So it is one of those things I’ll say that this is just something that we’re looking at right now, but we do intend to start big again soon.”
The Lakers did win the 2020 NBA Championship in big part thanks to moving back and forth between small and big lineups, tailoring their gameplan to each of their opponents along the way. Interestingly, Davis spent 60% of his time on the floor at the four during the 2019-20 regular season, playing the remaining 40% as the center, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
But when L.A. dominated their rivals in the playoffs, the proportions reversed with the eight-time All-Star deployed as the center 60% of the time.
Last year, Davis played at the five just 10% of the time in the regular season and 20% in the playoffs.
Davis praises young Rockets offense
Positioned in the paint, Davis had a good view of how much the Rockets’ offense improved in the second of the back-to-back games. Houston caused the Lakers’ defense troubles with their scorching shooting, making 16 threes on a 38.1% accuracy from beyond the arc.
Davis offered the Rockets quite the praise for their Tuesday performance.
“Hats off to them,’ he said. “They’re a young team that’s coming in that are playing with a lot of freedom. They have guys who can play. Sunday, they didn’t make a lot of shots, tonight they did. We just try to play as good of defense as we can. Take the ball out if they make it and run and score right back. It was just a matter of containing those guys.
“They got very comfortable to start the game. They were getting their confidence throughout the course of the game.”
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