Even though the Los Angeles Lakers have a 2-1 series lead over the Phoenix Suns, they have done so without the luxury of outside shots falling.
Through the first three games of the series, the Lakers are shooting just 27.6% (24-of-87) from three as a team.
As a team full of veterans though, the Lakers are not panicking due to their shooting struggles, which was the message that Wesley Matthews emphasized after Saturday’s practice going into Game 4.
“Everybody does their individual stuff. It’s just watching film. What it is, it’s not panicking. That’s the biggest thing. That’s for y’all to do. For us, we can’t panic,” Matthews said. “We know that we’ve played basketball for however many years. Everybody has played basketball. We’ve taken however many thousands, hundreds of thousands of millions of shots and repetitions. It’s not time for us to panic. We don’t crunch numbers and do all that stuff. We lace our shoes up and we get to work.
“And honestly, if we’re going to be in a shooting slump, I’d rather be in a shooting slump and be winning. There’s so many ways to impact the game, and the defensive end is definitely the most important way to impact the game. Obviously, shooting makes the game easier, but if we’re holding a team like that to 99, under 100 points, we’re giving ourselves a chance to get hot.”
Frank Vogel echoed Matthews’ sentiment that the Lakers cannot panic and must continue to take good shots when they are there.
“Of course. You have to shoot without hesitation, without a conscience and the bigger picture is you have to continue to focus on shot quality. That’s what we’re really putting our focus on is if we execute better, if th quality of shots goes up then the shots will fall. We believe in the numbers, we believe in our shooters that we have here and if we execute, if we pass better. read better, space better, screen better, all those types of things, we’ll just generate higher-quality looks and we believe it will come around.”
Even though the Lakers aren’t shooting the ball well, what they have done to be successful is play great defense, get out in transition and put pressure on the rim. Vogel feels that once the shooting comes around, L.A. will be a very tough team to beat.
“It just strengthens our belief that if you defend and rebound, you’re always gonna have a chance to win in the playoffs and with the offensive fire power we have on this team, we have a chance to do something special. But it starts on the defensive end, we’re holding up on that side of the ball. We have to be better with how we’re executing offensively and that’s been a big point of emphasis the past few days,” Vogel said.
“We were upset with how we came out in the first half the other night and I think you saw that with how we came out in the third quarter and in the second half. So hopefully that’s a snapshot of who we’re ultimately going to be when we reach our full potential as a team that really overwhelms you with our offense and that is very difficult to score on. That’s how we make deep playoff runs and hopefully that all comes together.”
Vogel pleased with Matthews’ play
With each playoff game, Matthews’ role has increased as he continues to bring a steady presence on defense while knocking down timely shots. That role could increase even more if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope misses time with his knee contusion.
Caldwell-Pope is questionable for Sunday’s Game 4 and there’s a good chance he plays, but even if he doesn’t, Vogel is pleased with what Matthews brings to the table.
“Wes has played really well. Really provides that toughness, that edginess, chippiness on the defensive end and you need that when you have elite playmakers like we’re going against in Chris Paul and Booker and even the way Cameron Payne is playing. So you definitely need that but he’s just another weapon for us to throw out there and help solidify us on the defensive end and as you saw the other night offensively, knocking down a couple threes always helps. Wes is a great two-way player and whether KCP is in or not, we expect him to contribute in this series.”
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