The Los Angeles Lakers came up short on the second night of their first back-to-back of the season, falling to the Portland Trail Blazers 115-107.
The game was extremely close down the stretch, but the Lakers weren’t able to come up with the plays they needed to down the stretch, particularly on the defensive end. Naturally, that prompted questions about the closing lineup head coach Frank Vogel opted for.
One main issue the Lakers had was containing the Blazers’ big men. Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter combined for 22 points and, more importantly, grabbed 26 rebounds on the night. Down the stretch the Lakers elected to go small with Montrezl Harrell at the center position.
While he gave great effort, Harrell simply didn’t have the size and strength to keep them in check. The Blazers would seem to be a matchup better suited for the bigger Marc Gasol, but Vogel chose to stick with the smaller lineup and had no regrets about his decision
“We’re a deep team and we’re going to continue to look at things,” Vogel said, echoing the comments he has previously made about how he views these early season games. “We can play with Marc or Trezz finishing, we have the ability to slide A.D. over to the 5.
“I didn’t have ‘Kieff in the game because we wanted to have a ballhandler in there with ‘Bron in that stretch where ‘Kieff normally plays. He would’ve been cold to put him in late. I liked the lineup that we had out there. We just weren’t able to get the job done.”
Vogel has been open about using the first few weeks of the season to try out different lineup combinations and get a good look at how he can best use the depth he has at his disposal.
The Lakers have the ability to be extremely versatile and play any style they want, but it is important to Vogel to find out exactly what those best lineups are and to get everyone comfortable playing with each other.
The Lakers added a lot of new pieces during the offseason, so while the team looks outstanding on paper, they did not have a normal training camp or preseason to get acclimated. As such, Vogel is going to use this time to make up for that and get his team in the best possible spot for down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs.
“It’s early in the season and we’ll continue to look at a lot of different combinations,” Vogel said.
Vogel confident Lakers defense can be similarly effective to 2019-20 roster
Regardless of who is in the game, one thing Vogel doesn’t expect to drop off is the Lakers’ defense. Losing two athletic shot blockers like JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard is tough and while Gasol and Harrell won’t provide that type of rim protection, Vogel believes they will be just as effective in a different way.
“I think we can be every bit as effective, but we probably won’t be as highly ranked in terms of blocks,” Vogel noted. “Marc and Trezz are more position defenders, charge takers. I don’t think our defensive efficiency needs to be any less. It just might not show up in that blocks area.”
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