The Los Angeles Lakers saw their modest two-game winning streak snapped after they lost to the Phoenix Suns, 114-104, on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers were without Marc Gasol (health and safety protocols) and Kyle Kuzma (right heel contusion), which severely thinned out their frontcourt depth. Head coach Frank Vogel started Montrezl Harrell in Gasol’s place, while Damian Jones got some run off the bench.
L.A. looked like it would be able to pull out a win early in the second half, but defensively had issues covering Phoenix when they opted to go small. Vogel decided to sit Harrell and Jones for the rest of the half, crediting the Suns for their move.
“We wanted to give Trezz the start and we also wanted to get Jones some minutes, but obviously they play a high volume of minutes with a small second unit with Saric at the five, which we typically would go small in those situations. So that minimized our opportunities to play Trezz big minutes or get Jones in there for big minutes,” Vogel said.
“Just trying to match up with their second unit, Chris Paul coming back in the middle of each half and playing Saric at the five has been very effective for them. Big reason why they’re now 15-3 in their last 18. We tried to do whatever we could to match up with that lineup, that’s how the minutes ended up where they were.”
Vogel tried to match Phoenix by going to Markieff Morris at the center, and while it juiced the Laker offense, they had trouble getting steps on the other end. Phoenix was able to get into the paint where they either scored right at the rim or kicked out to their shooters beyond the arc.
It is hard to be too concerned about the loss given how shorthanded L.A. was. Also, it is important to remember that when opposing teams go small the Lakers have the ultimate answer when they play Anthony Davis at the center when he is healthy.
Fortunately, the Purple and Gold have a quick turnaround as they play the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night before the All-Star break arrives.
Frank Vogel expresses confidence in Montrezl Harrell
Harrell has been a key piece in Vogel’s rotation during the 2020-21 season, so seeing him benched for most of the second half against the Suns was surprising. While Vogel believes Harrell can play in most matchups, sometimes the game will dictate his decision to play or sit him.
“He can play against big lineups and small lineups,” Vogel said. “I have confidence in Trezz in both of those situations, but there are situations where sometimes a small lineup might be better than him out there.
“So that’s what we thought was going to win the game for us tonight, and that’s what we went with. It didn’t work out, but those are the tough decisions you make throughout the course of the season.”
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