In a loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday, poor perimeter defense once again played a vital role for the Los Angeles Lakers. As Frank Vogel opted to start a traditional center in Dwight Howard, Heat center Bam Adebayo had a modest outing with only 14 points and eight rebounds.
But, as it’s been all year, elite perimeter shooters haunted L.A.’s defense. Duncan Robinson exploded for 25 points on 6-of-11 from 3-point range. Gabe Vincent and Caleb Matin combined for 26 points on 8-for-20 from the field. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler walked away with a triple-double.
Vogel spoke about what the Lakers can learn from this type of loss. “Every game there’s lessons. I want to credit the guys that competed in the second half,” Vogel said after a fourth-quarter comeback. “We held them to 44 points in the second half.
“Obviously, it was too late in terms of what we gave up in the first half, but we stayed believing in each other. We were able to cut a 26-point lead down to four. We just weren’t able to close it out.”
Going into more depth, Vogel discussed how small-ball lineups have affected their defensive strategy. “Our smaller lineups have been struggling defensively, so we’re incorporating more switching in particular with off-ball action. The Heat are, with Golden State [Warriors], the best off-ball movement team in the league, so it’s challenging.
“Especially when you have a guy like Duncan Robinson and the threat that he carries. So we tried a couple of different coverages when the first one wasn’t working and like I said guys have to be really connected and reading each other on the fly at high speed with a very small margin for error and that’s what you saw with the way the [Miami] Heat made us pay.”
Defense has been an issue for the Lakers this season almost regardless of who has been on the court. Small lineups have not helped things, but the real issue is a roster where none of the team’s defensive stoppers pose an offensive threat, and vice versa.
If the Lakers want to play lineups that focus solely on defense, they do so at the expense of offense. If they want to score, they’ll have no real means of getting stops. Anthony Davis could be an antidote for this issue, but he remains sidelined for the time being.
When he returns, how the Lakers approach their rotations will become much clearer. But against a team like Miami with off-ball movement and speed, the Lakers simply didn’t have the defensive tools for a full 48-minute game.
Vogel not blaming Talen Horton-Tucker for late turnover
Talen Horton-Tucker committed a turnover on the game’s final play, one that ultimately sealed the loss for the Lakers. However, Vogel does not blame Horton-Tucker given that the play was run incorrectly.
“I don’t want to get into the design of the play for future opponents, but it’s not Talen’s fault for that turnover. We have pressure release options in place that weren’t presented to him.”
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