There weren’t many positives to take away from the Los Angeles Lakers’ game on Friday night as they were beaten badly by the Phoenix Suns to fall to 0-2 on the young season. Not only that, but frustrations boiled over on the Lakers bench with Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis getting into a shoving match after disagreeing on a defensive pick-and-roll coverage.
If there was a positive to take away it would be the Lakers’ play in the fourth quarter as they did not quit and took a deficit that was north of 30 points all the way down to nine late in the game.
Part of the reason for that was the play of undrafted rookie Austin Reaves, who entered to begin the fourth quarter and made his NBA debut after sitting out the Lakers’ first game of the season. In 12 minutes, finished with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting and was a plus-17 for L.A., the best mark on the team.
After the game, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel explained why he went to Reaves in the fourth quarter and what he took away from the rookie’s performance.
“We’re learning about our team,” Vogel said. “We gave some of the other wings the first chance, weren’t getting much done as a group in the first three quarters and as a coach when you’re down big, you try to change the game with a small lineup and a different guy at the wing. And Austin came in and played really well.”
Another reason for the start of that Lakers run was that they went ultra-small with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony as their two big men on the floor. Vogel also explained that decision and if we will see that lineup more often.
“Yes and that’s what we put it in there for. Obviously, they made a run, but that’s a lineup that we’ll use throughout the year at that time. We call it a “center-less” lineup and without AD [Anthony Davis] or a big. There’s a lot that goes into that style of play that we wanted to look at.”
Has Reaves earned more minutes?
Given that the Lakers are a brand new team, it makes sense for Vogel to tinker with different lineups this early in the season to find what works. After Reaves’ strong showing in the loss to the Suns, it will be interesting to see if that earns him more playing time moving forward, perhaps before the game gets out of reach in the fourth quarter.
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