The Los Angeles Lakers put together their biggest win of the season on Monday night when they took down Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz, 101-95. One of the biggest reasons for this win was the breakout offensive performance of Stanley Johnson, who scored 15 points and 10 in the fourth quarter.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Johnson’s performance — despite being known as a lackluster offensive player — was his willingness to attack Gobert, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, in the paint. Johnson showed no fear, using his own aggression to score and set up teammates for open threes.
The defensive-minded wing credited LeBron James for the game plan to attack Gobert and for the activity level he had in the win.
“LeBron’s a smart player. Do this. Alright, I’ll do it. Do this. Alright, I’ll do it too. It’s as simple as that went. I think if you watch basketball the last couple years teams have had success with smaller guys like me attacking him off the bounce,” Johnson said.
“The thing for me is playing with energy. I can’t be a standstill statue. I got to get deflections, I got to play, I got to put myself in the game, I got to make myself useful because that’s where I excel – on the defensive end. I think any game that I’m able to have energy, I think I’ll be able to be a lot better basketball player.
“I think that’s what I was downing myself for the last couple games. I just didn’t have enough energy to even make shots, miss shots, it’s going to happen. But the energy. I had a couple deflections today and I was happy with that. I think sometimes you put one good thing in the game and it starts going for you like that. I think that was kind of the story today.”
James responded to Johnson’s comments and how the Lakers were able to secure the victory. “Just trying to put everybody in position to be successful. Reading the game in between the game while the game is going on. I knew ways that we could be successful offensively by putting guys in different positions on the floor. Guys responded very well to what I saw and we were able to get a big-time win.”
Johnson played his best game as Laker against the Jazz to kick off his third and final 10-day contract. If there was any doubt that he should be signed for the remainder of the season, it likely went away during Monday’s win.
This also serves as another testament to James’ ability to understand the game. Johnson crediting the Lakers superstar for his breakout performance shows how much James is able to get out of his teammates, even if they don’t have a particularly positive history on the offensive end.
Frank Vogel discusses going small vs. Gobert
After starting Dwight Howard at center against the Jazz, Vogel abandoned this after stints in the first and third quarters in favor of James at center. He discussed the decision following the win. “That group really did a great job,” Vogel said of the small-ball unit. “Our switching was far better tonight than it was in the Denver game, that’s the biggest area of growth over 48 hours.”
“In terms of Stanley and LeBron, it was really just a way to attack Rudy that LeBron identified and that we used as an action in the fourth quarter and Stanley made great plays, handling the pick-and-roll which is not something we’ve done with him. The more he’s with our program, we’re learning more and more of what he can do.”
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