The Lakers under head coach Frank Vogel have clearly embodied his defensive identity and it was on full display against the Heat as they were sharp from the opening tip.
Miami was one of the better shooting teams in the league heading into the matchup, but Los Angeles was able to hold them to 35% shooting from the field and only 80 points.
However, it is no secret the Lakers have been woeful shooting outside the paint during the early parts of the 2019-20 NBA season and the Heat tried to exploit that by going to a zone defense. It worked for most of the night as Los Angeles failed to get the ball moving and had to settle for contested jumpers.
The Lakers eventually made the necessary adjustments as they moved Davis to the center position and he was able to make plays for himself and his teammates. Davis wound up tallying seven assists (season-high) and explained how he was able to do it.
“They were in a zone, I knew what was going to be open. Once we get the ball in the middle of the floor, it’s pick your poison,” Davis explained.
“I can score or throw it to the lob to JaVale or Dwight or find the shooters in the corner, so once we got the ball in the middle of the zone the rest was just making the play.”
Davis’ impact on both ends has always been impressive, but his passing and playmaking have steadily improved every season and it was clear against the Heat he was comfortable making the right reads at the heart of their zone. He took whatever the defense was giving him and as a result, it opened up the rest of the offense for the Lakers.
It is games like these that really enforce the idea that the purple and gold truly have a shot at winning the 2020 NBA Finals given their No. 1 ranked defense coupled with the talent of Davis and LeBron James. There is even more room for optimism as they have been generating open looks for shooters but for some reason they just have not been able to convert at a higher clip.
Regardless, Davis and the Lakers are playing some of the best basketball in the league and they should be able to carry that momentum over when they play the Toronto Raptors.