The Los Angeles Lakers won their second consecutive game on Sunday night against the Houston Rockets and did so in a way that was sure to make head coach Frank Vogel very happy. While the Lakers’ offense struggled, it didn’t matter because they put forth their best defensive performance of the early season.
The Lakers held the Rockets to just 85 points on 42.1% shooting and 21.4% from 3-point range while also forcing 25 Houston turnovers. This performance was needed as the Lakers themselves shot just 40.6% from the field and 29% from deep in their 10-point victory.
The defense of the Lakers has come under a lot of scrutiny early on this season and has surely been frustrating to Vogel who is known as a defensive coach. But he was satisfied most with the Lakers’ commitment on that end of the floor against Houston.
“I just think the commitment,” Vogel said. “I’m really harping on the necessary ingredient of building an elite defense to achieve what we want to achieve this year… Reflected in the number of deflections we had… Deflections are indicative of your overall activity level. Your overall activity level if reflective of overall commitment to be great on that side of the ball.”
The Lakers had 15 steals on the night and plenty of other deflections which goes to Vogel’s point. The commitment and effort on that end of the floor must be at the highest level to succeed, especially with the team down many of the players they expected to rely on defensively.
Much of that starts with Russell Westbrook, who has the ability to set the tone with his energy and intensity on that end. Vogel realizes he is asking Westbrook, and some of the other veterans, to do something different right now, but he believes he is doing a good job of adjusting.
“He’s very approachable. He’s trying to do what we’re asking him to do and it is a little bit different for him,” Vogel added. “I think for a lot of our guys Bron, AD and Melo, Russ. A lot of their careers they’ve had a lot of dirty work guys around them and now they all have to support each other in that way and we’ll commit to guarding our own man and executing our scheme. And I feel Russ has done a good job of that.”
Once the Lakers are healthy and have the likes of Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and Trevor Ariza on the court things should only improve even more. But regardless of who is on the court, Vogel expects that type of effort that we all witnessed on Sunday to be the norm for this team.
Davis credits communication for Lakers’ defensive effort
Some might point to the Lakers’ opponent as reason for the improvement as the Rockets are expected to be one of the worst teams in the league. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t progress in what the Lakers need to do and Anthony Davis pointed to the team’s communication as reason for their success.
“Our communication was really good tonight,” Davis said. “Our schemes, we followed our game plan to a T tonight. We had a team with 85 points. We saw after last quarter, we did a really, really good job, you know 15, 20 and 19 in the first three quarters- we were able to work as a unit. Do what we’re supposed to do.
“I think our communication was very on point tonight which helped us with a lot of our coverages where we usually have some struggles. But when we’re out there communicating and guys are listening to everyone and making sure that guys are talking and holding guys accountable on a defensive end, we can play really good defense.”