Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has found a somewhat successful formula of surrounding LeBron James with the team’s younger players. This includes the trio of Austin Reaves, Malik Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker.
In 101 minutes together this season, the four-man combination of James, Reaves, Horton-Tucker and Monk have a net rating of 12.2, put together by an offensive rating of 117.7 and a defensive rating of 105.5. It’s clear that this group has helped to keep the Lakers afloat several times this season.
Vogel has been particularly impressed by what he’s seen from the young trio of Reaves, Monk, and Horton-Tucker. “I think they definitely picked up on Bron’s energy because Bron keeps our belief strong, you know what I mean?
“He keeps us connected and those guys are talented guys that continue to improve and get better and more comfortable in our system and our environment. I got them down as 21-for-38, Malik, Austin and Talen,” Vogel said of their performance against the Washington Wizards.
“That trio is another reason, amongst others, why I believe we have a chance in this situation that we’re in where we’re likely in the Play-In Game and we’ll have to play our way into a seven-game series. But those guys playing the way they did tonight, they give me a great deal of belief.”
Vogel had been criticized for not giving these young players enough playing time together, despite statistical evidence of their success. However, he’s clearly given them a bigger opportunity, and it paid off in a big way against the Wizards.
The Lakers coach was also impressed by Horton-Tucker specifically against the Wizards. “That play was awesome,” Vogel said of Horton-Tucker’s spin move and dunk on Kyle Kuzma. “That play brought the house down. But I thought the whole game that Talen played was really impressive.
“I think guys want to play through injury all the time and I think that sometimes it’s smarter to just let, in this situation, the ankle heal up a couple extra days like he did and didn’t play in Houston. And I thought he benefitted tonight from being healthier and playing with a great deal of confidence, attacking the basket, making plays, defending. One of his best games for us this year, but that play was really awesome.”
If the Lakers are going to stand any chance in a Play-In Tournament and first-round series, it’s going to be because of James, a healthy Anthony Davis and the young players on the roster. Monk, Reaves and Horton-Tucker have each breathed life into L.A. at various times.
Together, they have built a strong rapport that translates to high-energy basketball, something the Lakers have desperately been missing throughout the season.
Horton-Tucker playing through ankle sprain
Despite one of his best games of the season on Friday, Horton-Tucker revealed he has been playing through a painful Grade 2 ankle sprain.
“My ankle- I had a Grade 2 sprain,” Horton-Tucker said. “I’m still dealing with it, it’s still painful. I’m just trying to play through it and today to see a win; any way I can help everyone and be out there. I’m trying to play through it. It still hurts.”
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