The Los Angeles Lakers seem to finally have arrived to the bubble as they have put on two impressive displays now in the first round.
Games 2 and 3 were victories, putting the Lakers up 2-1 in their series against the Portland Trail Blazers. The offense has come together a bit, but it has been the L.A. defense that has really stood out.
Despite dropping Game 1, Los Angeles held Portland to only 100 points and have since built upon that effort. Portland only mustered 88 points in Game 2, and while they reached 108 in the following matchup, it did not come with much rhythm.
“From the first day of training camp we wanted to be the best defensive team in the league, so nothing has changed,” James said of the Lakers’ play against the Trail Blazers.
“The mindset has not changed. We’ve had some explosions offensively this year before COVID, but the main thing has always been the main thing, and that’s to defend. That’s just who we’ve always been.
“There’s going to be games where you just don’t make shots or play well, but you’ve got to be able to defend and give yourself and opportunity. That’s just who we’ve always been. That has not changed from the first day we stepped on the floor for training camp.”
In terms of staying this consistent, Anthony Davis explained there is a simple way to do so. “Effort. That’s all it is. Defense is all about effort,” he said. “You’ve got to want to play defense. Everybody in our locker room has taken that challenge, especially with [Lillard and McCollum].
“We want to be a great defensive team. We don’t want to rely on our offense to win games, we want to do it on the defensive end. Everybody has taken the challenge to guard their man 1-on-1 and also know that you have help on the backside if you do get beat. Our communication has been great for the most part. We want to make sure we continue to be aggressive defensively, especially against Dame and CJ, and make them work for every shot.”
Playing this type of hard-nose defense is what will carry Los Angeles to the top, but Davis also admitted he needs to do a better job of taking pressure of James to score. Despite some early series lumps, the duo appears to be rounding into form, a welcomed sight to see.
Frank Vogel explains how Los Angeles can sustain its defense
Frank Vogel has lived up to his reputation as a defensive-minded head coach, showing off in this series against Portland how he is able to slow down elite offenses.
The Blazers were the hottest scoring team in the bubble, but so far the Lakers have held them well below their averages. Despite the success, Vogel explained that it has still been a challenge for him and his team.
“It’s difficult,” Vogel said. “We’ve got to use our depth, we’ve got both big guys out there, and A.D. playing big minutes, some at the 5, some at the 4. Our guards are working really hard, and we’re trying to encourage them to run.
“They started two 7-footers tonight. It takes a lot of commitment to pick these guards up at halfcourt — where their range begins — and still ask them to run the floor. Our guys are working extremely hard for these victories.”
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