The Los Angeles Lakers have been struggling in Orlando more than expected, resulting in splitting their first four seeding games of the NBA restart. Inconsistency on both ends of the court and poor shooting plagued the Lakers again on Wednesday night as they fell 105-86 to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Head coach Frank Vogel has so far opted against resting players or altering the starting lineup, although he did not rule it out as a future possibility following the loss to the Thunder. Having already clinched the top seed in the Western Conference, Vogel’s priority is to find that rhythm the Lakers lost during the four-month hiatus back before the playoffs begin.
But the task could prove even more difficult considering a few Laker players are nursing injuries. Dwight Howard already missed the Thunder game with a knee injury but the Lakers are hopeful he will play on the second night of a back-to-back.
As for others, Vogel indicated he intended to keep with the team’s plan of regular minutes. “We’ll see how they feel in the morning. We’ve got some guys dealing with nagging injuries, but we plan to play them as of right now. We’ll see how they respond overnight,” he said.
Before Wednesday’s loss to the Thunder, Vogel said having secured the top seed would not heavily impact rotations in back-to-back games or the remaining seeding games as a whole, as he wanted certain players to get accustomed to playing bigger roles in the Orlando bubble while keeping LeBron James and Anthony Davis in form.
James has since been ruled out for Thursday’s game due to a sore right groin.
Waiters has been ‘a great addition’
Vogel admitted he is still figuring out the best way to fit Dion Waiters, Markieff Morris and JR Smith into his rotations after they joined the team during the season. However, Waiters has already made an impact off the bench, averaging 11 points in more than 21 minutes per game.
“He’s a physical driver with the basketball, and if we get guys to touch the paint to either create layups for us or backside threes, that just helps our whole offense,” Vogel said. “He’s had some really critical stretches that were vital to some of our wins. He’s been a great addition for us.”
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