The Los Angeles Lakers were already in a difficult position without superstar Anthony Davis, and that was then compounded when Dennis Schroder was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
The Lakers lost all four games with Schroder out as head coach Frank Vogel struggled to find a replacement for what he brings to the table. Schroder scored 22 points in his return as the Lakers snapped their losing streak with a 102-93 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Schroder’s impact offensively was seen as he continually attacked the basket and got himself to the free throw line, where he knocked down all nine of his attempts. But Vogel was more focused on what the Lakers point guard brought to the other end of the court.
“It’s really a two-way thing,” Vogel said after the win. “He gives us a punch because he can make a shot and create a shot when we have a little bit of a drought, but what he’s able to do defensively for us, every time down the floor whether he’s on the ball or on the weak side, he just has great speed, great defensive tenacity and really sets a tone for us.
“So I would say that his impact was felt mostly on the defensive end.”
The Lakers’ defense was definitely the story as they held the Blazers’ seventh-ranked offense to just 93 points. Damian Lillard scored 35 in the first half, but only 11 over the final two quarters thanks in large part to the efforts of Schroder and Alex Caruso.
Vogel believes the Lakers getting their defense in order is paramount to the fixing the team’s offensive issues as well. “There’s a lot of talk about what we’re not doing offensively, (but) these last few games we haven’t defended well enough,” the Lakers head coach added.
“When we defend well enough and we get stops and the whistle doesn’t blow and our offense is flowing in transition, we’re able to attack before the defense is set. … That’s when we’re at our best.”
The Lakers forced 15 turnovers, finishing with nine steals and seven blocks while holding the Blazers to just 38.6% shooting and 29.7% from 3-point range. Schroder’s offense is undoubtedly appreciated, especially if it allows LeBron James to take a break, but the Lakers are a defensive team first and foremost, and he has become the tone setter on that end of the floor.
Lakers sign Damian Jones to a 10-day contract
The Lakers had another addition suit up against Portland though he didn’t take the floor. Center Damian Jones signed a 10-day contract with the team as the Lakers look for more big man depth in the absence of Davis and with Marc Gasol struggling to make a consistent impact.
Jones appeared in 14 games with the Phoenix Suns this season before being waived, but was more impactful with the Atlanta Hawks last season. In 55 games last year Jones averaged 5.6 points and 3.7 rebounds on 68% shooting.
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