The Los Angeles Lakers are hoping their roster depth will balance out the team’s weaknesses in the playoffs, particularly as they are still grappling with a devastating injury crisis.
Role players stepped up tremendously in the Orlando bubble last season, interchangeably sharing the “third star” mantle on the way to the franchise’s 17th championship. This year, L.A. will be counting on offseason arrivals Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell and Wesley Matthews to support LeBron James and Anthony Davis from the bench.
Matthews has played a major role in recent games for the Lakers even though he fell out of the rotation a couple of times earlier this season. To emphasize his importance to the team, head coach Frank Vogel predicts the veteran guard’s contribution will prove invaluable in the playoffs in specific matchups.
“Yeah, any matchup in the playoffs where they have elite perimeter players, Wes Matthews is likely gonna be a factor in that series,” he said after Thursday’s loss to the L.A. Clippers.
“He’s an exceptional perimeter defender and brings toughness to our team and I think you saw that tonight with how he competed and used his voice leading our group. He’s a tough dude, we’re lucky to have him and he’s certainly gonna be a factor in matchups like this.”
Matthews missed five of the six games preceding the 93-89 victory over the Denver Nuggets, which he ended with eight points shooting 2-for-2 from behind the 3-point line.
As the Lakers continue to deal with injuries though, Matthews’ role has increased, so hopefully he can continue the strong level of play with the playoffs just around the corner.
James could return next week
James briefly returned from a six-week break caused by his high ankle sprain last week, only to leave the loss to the Toronto Raptors and the games that followed due to soreness in the injured leg.
But according to reports, the four-time NBA champion could still rejoin the team before the end of the regular season. James is said to be looking at next week’s clashes against the New York Knicks or Houston Rockets to make his comeback.
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