The Los Angeles Lakers wrapped up their preseason with a 114-113 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday, finishing with a perfect 4-0 record despite the many roster adjustments the team went through in previous weeks.
L.A. looked vulnerable defensively in the second meeting with Phoenix but made up for the shortcomings with their offense, particularly in the second half. Head coach Frank Vogel continued his roster experiments, replacing Kyle Kuzma with Wesley Matthews in the lineup after halftime.
Vogel admitted incorporating new players and testing requirements affected the team’s preseason preparations in terms of on-court work. But he said the Lakers spent some extra time in the film room instead, looking for the areas they could still improve in.
“It’s something that worked for us a lot in the playoffs last year,” Vogel said. “We’ve had some success with carryover — what we’ve talked about in film carrying out onto the court. Hopefully that continues.”
Vogel praised the new Lakers players for their response to the seriousness taken with film sessions, particularly regarding defensive play. “To their credit, our whole group so far has been really good with this,” he said.
“My main takeaway defensively, without looking at the totality of the numbers from Game 3, was I was really impressed with how connected we are already within the nuances and details of our defensive system with the new guys working together with the returning guys. That’s an encouraging thing for me.”
Matthews surprised by Vogel’s defensive schemes
The Lakers boasted one of the best defenses in the league last season, which played a major role in their championship run. And Matthews said he was surprised by the nuances of the team’s defensive schemes upon his arrival in L.A.
“For myself, it’s a little bit of a change because rather than hedging through screens, now they say bust over and you’ll have help,” he said. “That’s an adjustment for me where as if I didn’t make a stop, it was going to be tough.
“So not gearing myself back a little bit, but understanding I’m funneling people into LeBron, Marc Gasol, A.D., and all the other defenders this team has. As opposed to just playing 1 versus 2, or 1 versus 1 around the screen.”
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