The Los Angeles Lakers have bucked the trend of the current NBA landscape as head coach Frank Vogel and his coaching staff have decided to build both the offense and defense around the team’s size and length.
Anthony Davis is the perfect small-ball center for today’s game, but he is also notorious for wanting to play power forward, so Vogel normally flanks him with either JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard to save his body from the physical toll that comes with playing that position.
The big man tandem has been a revelation for Los Angeles as McGee and Howard ensure they have a legitimate rim protector on the floor when they are in the game as well as credible vertical threats with their ability to roll to the rim and finish lobs.
“I just try to really have a defensive mind and just protect the rim. They were really aggressive in the first half going to the rim so that second half, I tried to make sure that I was there to stop it.”
McGee also added that not conceding layups is a focus for himself and the team:
“Definitely the mindset. No layups, that’s the Lakeshow way and I didn’t like the way they are coming to the rim trying to dunk on us, so I had to do something about it.”
McGee made his presence felt in the paint all night as he routinely came over and contested shots, ultimately ending up with six blocks. There were several plays in the second half where the Pelicans looked to attack but McGee was there to challenge the shot and get the Lakers going back the other way to score in transition.
Younger and athletic teams like New Orleans have proven to give Los Angeles trouble as their speed pushing the ball up the floor has exposed some of the team’s issues getting back on defense. While the purple and gold did a much better job of limiting the Pelicans fastbreak opportunities in the second, there were still instances where they gave up uncontested dunks and layups.
When McGee is able to make defensive plays, the team feeds off that and is much more focused on both ends of the court as a result. Hopefully, he can bring that same energy when the Philadelphia 76ers come to town to begin a challenging stretch.