Facing elimination for the first time this postseason, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham changed his starting lineup for Game 4 against the Denver Nuggets, inserting Dennis Schroder and Rui Hachimura for D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt. They are starting alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves, of course.
The Lakers are making the change after falling down three games to none in the series with the last loss in Game 3 being their first at home this postseason.
The biggest change here is the demotion of Russell, who has started every game since coming back to the Lakers but has really struggled so far in the Western Conference Finals.
Through three games, Russell has played 79 minutes and has the worst plus-minus in the series at -53. He has scored just 21 total points while shooting 8-for-27 from the field (29.6%) and 2-for-14 from 3-point range (14.3%). Ham has said that he wants Russell to remain aggressive offensively, but that will have to come in a reserve role on Monday.
Getting the start in his place is Schroder, who has also struggled offensively but has done a decent job slowing down Jamal Murray on the other end of the floor. After Murray scored 30 points in the first half of Game 3, the Lakers held him to just seven points in the second half with Schroder often picking him up full court.
The other change is inserting Hachimura, who is having a great series, for Vanderbilt. With Schroder defending Murray, the Lakers don’t need Vanderbilt’s defensive prowess as much.
Hachimura has averaged 17 points and 2.7 rebounds while shooting an impressive 63.6% from the field and 50% from 3-point range so far in this series. He has also been one of the Lakers’ best options on Nikola Jokic, so he will likely get that assignment again in Game 4.
Hachimura knew he could perform at this level
Even though Hachimura has surprised many people with his high level of play this postseason, he always knew what he was capable of.
“I don’t know, the people that know me for a long time, from the Wizards or other players, the coaches, for me, I don’t think it’s nothing, it’s not new for me. I’ve had this for a while. It’s just a different opportunity, you know. The Lakers is like one of the biggest teams in the league and playing with LeBron, AD, highest level.
“So it’s just a different opportunity and it’s nothing for me, yeah.”
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