The matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks was one between the NBA’s best defense and top offense. Head coach Frank Vogel’s team came out on top with a 113-106 victory, holding Milwaukee 14 points below their season average.
There were good signs from a Lakers defense that has fallen below standards over the last couple games, holding the Bucks to 25 points or fewer each of the final three quarters while also keeping them in check from the 3-point line, where they usually thrive.
The Bucks went into the contest in the top five in both 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage, but the Lakers held them to just 9-of-28 from deep, a 32.1% rate.
But there were still some concerns defensively and Vogel made it clear that there is still much room for improvement. “We didn’t play our best basketball game,” Vogel said.
“We’ve had a lot of games this year where we have really suffocated other teams in terms of taking away their fast-break and offensive rebounding. We did a good job on the defensive glass tonight; they only had five offensive rebounds, but didn’t get back well enough in transition.”
Transition defense was a point of emphasis for Vogel before the game, but the Lakers still allowed 24 fast-break points to the Bucks while getting just nine for themselves. They also were dominated in the paint as the Bucks outscored them 58-32 inside.
“I thought we’ve slipped in the last three or four games — forgetting wins and losses — with low-man recognition and making sure we’re really protecting the rim and committing to that part of our defense,” Vogel added.
“I don’t know exactly how many, but I believe we took or attempted to take at least 10 charges. That’s what we want. We want collisions at the rim that hopefully are charges or vert plays so we can get out on the break. We made some big plays with regard to Giannis in particular.”
But in the end it is all about wins, and the Lakers were able to pull through. A lot of teams are unable to come through when they struggle in certain areas, but Vogel loves that the Lakers aren’t one of them.
“We are a team that even if we don’t perform well enough in one area, can make up for it in other areas,” Vogel said. “I think we saw that with some of our competitive spirit plays on the defensive end in the halfcourt in the second half, and really the final three quarters.
“Obviously the way we move the basketball and reward extra-pass basketball with a night like tonight where we shot the ball really well, we can make up for some things. But we have to be better.”
Vogel ‘aware’ of Lakers lineup that has struggled
Despite the Lakers having the best record, a point of contention has risen recently with one particular lineup that has struggled mightily. The grouping of LeBron James, Wesley Matthews, Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris and Montrezl Harrell is the team’s second-most used lineup in terms of minutes played, but has a net rating of -29.7.
“That’s not an ideal lineup but a lot of times the game plays out where I’m trying to get guys the minutes they deserve to impact our team,” Vogel explained. “Sometimes it results in imperfect lineups, but that sample size is extremely small.
“We’ll continue to evaluate that, but I’m aware of what that lineup looks like.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!