Heading into the Western Conference Semifinals, much of the intrigue with matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets centered around their contrasting styles of play.
Lakers are a rarity in today’s NBA — essentially starting two 7-footers — while the Rockets took the small-ball phenomenon and amplified it. In a four-team trade at the deadline that saw the Rockets part with Clint Capella and acquire Robert Covington, the versatile forward became their tallest player at 6’7.
What the Rockets lack in stature they make up for with athleticism, grit, shooting and pace. That won out against the Lakers, with LeBron James noting the team needed to see the Rockets’ speed in person in order to adjust.
With another Game 1 loss to their ledger, talk of the Lakers potentially going small was reignited. Though, head coach Frank Vogel declined to tip his hand on any potential changes for Game 2.
“I’ll keep my opinions on our lineups kind of close to my vest right now. We continue to evaluate,” he said after the team’s latest practice session. “We got off to a strong start in the game, so the starting lineup did have a positive plus-minus, but we’ll continue to evaluate what the best way to best way to beat the Houston Rockets is.”
One issue for the Lakers was Anthony Davis getting pushed away from the rim on offense. He was still effective, but not dominant. “We’ve talked a lot about that in film, and again, not really going to get into what that looks like,” Vogel answered when asked how the team could help Davis establish better positioning.
“Certainly we want to put all of our guys — in particular LeBron and AD — in the best position to be successful. AD still had a strong night but there are some things we can do a little bit differently.”
As for the notion of making the Rockets adjust to them, Vogel wasn’t completely sure if it would be possible in practice. “They don’t really have the option to go big,” he noted.
“They made an organizational decision to create this style of play and I think they’re going to sink or swim with it. That’s more a question for them, but I believe you’re going to see this style regardless of what the results look like.”
Davis reportedly open to center
Davis made it clear at his introductory press conference with the Lakers that he is not in the least bit excited by the prospect of playing center. However, he expressed a willingness to do so on occasion.
That may be required for the Rockets series — though how effective it would be has been the source of debate. Nevertheless, Davis reportedly is willing to slide to the 5 for the Western Conference Semifinals.
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