A potentially major development occurred in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.
With 3:52 left in the fourth quarter, head coach Frank Vogel deployed Malik Monk onto the court, taking Russell Westbrook out of the game in crunch time — an adjustment rarely seen in the first half of the 2021-22 season. About four minutes earlier, L.A. had lost its lead that they held onto for the majority of the game.
It was later reported the Lakers’ management supported Vogel’s decision, which has been internally discussed over the past two weeks.
The head coach has explained he decided to close out the game with the players who “I thought we were gonna win the game.” Those included Carmelo Anthony, who tried to minimize the importance of Vogel’s move after the game.
“For me, I was in the game, so I don’t know, you get caught up in the midst of the game,” Anthony said. “It’s kind of hard to pay attention to what’s going on on the sideline.”
Anthony thought Vogel’s decision to bench Westbrook for the final minutes of the game wasn’t personal. But, the 37-year-old forward added, he understood Westbrook’s frustration.
“It’s an adjustment. I think I know what he’s dealing with, what he is going through. I’ve been there before. I don’t think it was anything personal from Coach, you said he subbed him in the four minutes — I think Malik came in or something like that.
“I don’t think it’s anything personal, it’s something that he’s not used to. You think somebody like that would be on the court but with the flow of the game, it’s been times where I haven’t been in the game or other guys haven’t been in the game, so I don’t think it’s anything personal. It’s just something that we got to help him figure it out.
“It’s frustrating, I can tell you that. It’s frustrating as a player who’s trying to make it right, trying to do things right. This is new for him, this is a new situation, this is a new environment so we got to help him through it. That’s the only thing we can do is make sure his mental is right. That’s the only thing I care about, I don’t care about any basketball stuff when it comes to Russ. As long as his mental is right then I’m good.”
Westbrook ended the game with 14 points, two rebounds and three assists, shooting 5-for-17 (29.4%) from the field and 4-for-6 (66.6%) from downtown.
Vogel believes ‘everyone’ is to blame for loss to Pacers
L.A. has lost four of the last five games since recording a four-game winning streak at the turn of the year. Vogel has said everyone on the Lakers shared the blame for the most recent defeat.
“It’s everyone. It’s all of us,” he said. “We got to coach better, they got to play better, everything has to be better. Got to execute, the effort, focus. Everyone.”
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