The modern NBA is a far cry from how basketball used to be played as the league has shifted from post play to a pace-and-space style that promotes three-point shooting.
However, the 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers have bucked that trend a bit as they are one of the only teams in the league who still start two traditional big men in Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee with another true center in Dwight Howard playing meaningful minutes.
The trio’s collective size, length, and athleticism has been an issue for opponents throughout the season as each player is able to protect the rim and clear the glass, spearheading their top-five defense. Head coach Frank Vogel opts to play with at least one of them on the floor at all times, and it has done wonders for them on both sides of the ball.
Despite that, the big men and the rest of the Lakers suffered a rough 105-88 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The pace of play and energy Memphis brought proved to be too much for a Los Angeles team that had trouble keeping up.
In his post-game interview, Vogel believed rebounding was a major reason his team could not match the Grizzlies’ energy, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“No. 1 thing is we couldn’t rebound the ball and again that’s energy. Credit those guys for coming in and just crashing the boards hard. We were trying to get out on the break too much before we secured the rebound and that was costing in term of us getting a rhythm.”
The Lakers were outrebounded 60-51 on the night and Jonas Valanciunas was the primary reason for that as he finished with 20 rebounds — with five of them coming on the offensive end. Valanciunas was a menace on the boards, outworking the team’s bigs and allowing Memphis to keep the momentum for most of the night.
Rebounding and blocking shots is something the Lakers frontcourt has excelled at throughout the season, so this is probably more of an outlier performance than it is a sign of a troubling trend. Every team will suffer letdown games, so hopefully their showing against Memphis is just that and nothing more.
Even with the loss, the purple and gold still hold a five-and-a-half game lead over the Denver Nuggets and are looking like the prohibitive favorites to finish atop the Western Conference. However, that lead could potentially dwindle a bit as they next play a New Orleans Pelicans team who recently gave them issues with their speed and athleticism.