The final score did not tell the true story of the game on Sunday night as the Los Angeles Lakers cruised to a victory over the Houston Rockets.
Los Angeles won their matchup 95-85, but the team was in control for basically the entire night as they raced out to an early double-digit lead and never looked back. Carmelo Anthony had another scoring outburst off the bench, scoring a team-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook just missed out on his second triple-double of the 2021-22 season, scoring 20 points to go along with nine assists and eight rebounds.
The biggest takeaway from the game aside from the win was the change in the starting lineup as head coach Frank Vogel opted to start Avery Bradley instead of DeAndre Jordan, moving Anthony Davis to center. It was a surprise to see Vogel make such a move this early into the season and he explained the rationale behind the decision.
“We’ve been talking about certain points in the season to explore our roster flexibility and the way Houston plays, it seemed like a good opportunity to look at that,” Vogel said after the game.
“I also liked the way we finished the fourth quarter against Cleveland having [Kent] Baze and AB [Avery Bradley] out there guarding the other two team’s best perimeter players and AD at the five. It’s just something we want to look at as a starting group. One of those guys would be the backup center, either DJ [DeAndre Jordan] or Dwight [Howard], Dwight being scratched. We used DJ, he was great and glad we got the win.”
Vogel added that he is he will see about using the same starting lineup on Tuesday when the Lakers play the Rockets again, but the early returns looked great as the team looked much more cohesive on both ends of the floor. Granted, Houston is a young team that will inevitably struggle against teams like Los Angeles but it was still encouraging to see the Lakers maintain control of the game with their new starters.
While testing out a new starting lineup against an inexperienced team like the Rockets makes sense, Vogel could have also made the decision because Dwight Howard was ruled out just before the contest with neck stiffness. Vogel has a clear preference for having a true center with the backups, so Jordan’s move to the bench could be temporary until Howards returns.
The biggest difference for the Lakers was their defense, of course, holding Houston to just 85 points.
“Huge growth on the defensive side of the ball, not because of the lineup but because of our work,” Vogel said. We’ve been really hammering the details with these guys in the areas we’ve been failing. We’ve had very productive film sessions and they’ve been challenged with things like containment and low-man and executing their coverages the right way and finishing possessions.
” We did a much better job hitting people. We’ve been very lax with our box outs the last two games, but all those areas were improved tonight.”
Seeing Davis at center more gave fans a glimpse of what an ideal lineup for the Lakers looks like and it would be in Vogel’s best interest to keep rolling with it.
Anthony Davis lays out how Lakers can be good defensive team
The Lakers held the Rockets to only 85 points in their win, though the latter did not help themselves out much by committing 27 turnovers. Los Angeles was much better with their rotations and help assignments, though, and that was encouraging to see. While there is still work to do, Davis laid out how the Lakers can be a good defensive team and their showing against the Rockets was a good start.
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