It was a hard-fought game, but the Los Angeles Lakers ended their seven-game road trip on a high note by defeating the Atlanta Hawks 107-99.
The Hawks are a much-improved team and were able to hang with the Lakers for most of the night before L.A. put on a defensive clinic in the final minutes to pull out the win. Anthony Davis led the Lakers in scoring with 25 points while LeBron James added 21 points and nailed a 3 late to give the team the momentum they needed.
One of the subplots of the night was the Lakers going up against Rajon Rondo, who of course was one of the key members in their 2020 NBA championship run. Rondo, widely regarded as one of the smartest players in the league, had a theoretical edge playing his former team due to his knowledge of the playbook, but head coach Frank Vogel prepared for that.
“Everything we did was to try to trick Rondo. We know how smart he is. We wanted to have some deception to our game because he knows all our packages,” Vogel said.
“We had a few extra tricks in there for him.”
Rondo has been known to call out opposing teams’ plays and schemes, but Vogel planned ahead and made sure to limit the veteran’s influence during the game. It worked as the Lakers were able to execute their offense early in the fourth and took a double digit lead they eventually rode to the finish.
“We just called an ATO play, and ‘Do was here last year so he knows all our plays and system, and he’s very good at scouting the other team’s plays and players. So we ran a play and put him in some action and ended up getting a foul,” Davis said.
“I was on the bench and yelling to him that he hasn’t seen that one because it’s something new. He started laughing. It was a cool moment.”
Vogel noted they wanted to treat Rondo like they do other players but his familiarity with the team obviously made that difficult. “We just know what his strengths and weaknesses are,” Vogel said prior to tipoff.
“We want to try to approach him as just another player as much as possible to lock into this game. Obviously he was so vital to our championship run last year. He really orchestrated the game on both sides of the ball.
“His ability to switch from man to zone, and we like to joke sometimes he had our guys in ‘mone’ defense where a couple guys were in man, a couple guys were in zone; nobody really knew what we were putting in, but the offense didn’t either and it worked for us. I shot him a text today that we’ve got our man defense ready for him to try to slow him down.
Vogel admits Lakers miss Rondo
Having Rondo around last season was beneficial for Vogel as he was an extension of the coaching staff whenever he was on the floor. Prior to the game against the Hawks, Vogel acknowledged he missed having Rondo around.
“I will say we really miss him around here,” Vogel said. “He was a big part of what we did last year, a big part of our culture and he’s definitely missed.”
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