While it’s easy to forget due to the number of unbelievable shots LeBron James made in the fourth quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers’ victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of his biggest plays came on the defensive end.
With the two teams engaged in a close back-and-forth contest, James skied in for a block on Cavs guard Collin Sexton that was originally ruled a goaltend. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel elected to use his challenge and was successful, getting the call overturned.
Since the ball went out of bounds, it resulted in a jump ball. The Cavs won that but came up empty on the second possession and the Lakers remained in the lead.
Vogel has been open about his strategy when using his coach’s challenge and this situation fit right into that ideal. “I think it did help the momentum,” Vogel said following the win.
“It was pretty clear to me that it wasn’t a goaltend, but what I always try to measure with that is what value are we gaining if I’m right and win the challenge? A lot of times you can save the challenge for a key possession in the game, to keep a key player from getting into foul trouble, or take away free throws.
“This was going to take away two points and it would be a jump ball.”
In a game as back-and-forth as this one, every single point mattered and that definitely helped with the morale of the team down the stretch. A couple minutes later, LeBron turned things up to bring the game home for the Lakers, but that block earlier still went a long way in setting the tone for how those final few minutes were going to go.
Proper usage of the coach’s challenge is something that everyone is getting used to, but Vogel has his reasonings for when and why. Furthermore, he relies on his staff for extra assurance.
“I always seek validation from my coaching staff to make sure they’re seeing the play the way I saw it,” Vogel added. “They all felt the same way. When you make a play like that, it’s kind of a momentum play, I thought it was the right time to make the challenge.
“We ended up getting a stop, so we saved those two points and kept our momentum going.”
Vogel says Lakers must be better holding on to leads
While not as big as earlier games this season, the Lakers did again hold a double-digit lead against the Cavaliers, before letting them back in. Unfortunately for Vogel this has been an ongoing occurrence and one he knows the team must improve
“We’ve got to be better. That’s the simplest way to put it,” Vogel said after the Lakers allowed a 30-point halftime lead against the Chicago Bulls fall to as little as 11. It followed the Lakers’ last loss, a 115-113 defeat to the Golden State Warriors in which they gave up a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter.
“Hopefully we’re going to be up again by 20 to 30 at halftime at some point and we’ll draw back on this experience, knowing we didn’t do well enough and we have to be better in the future,” Vogel said.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!