While the Los Angeles Lakers’ season has gotten off to a subpar 10-10 start, Frank Vogel has largely used the first 20 games to test out different lineups to see what works considering he has a brand new roster and the team has already been hampered by injuries.
A lot of the lineups Vogel has tested out haven’t worked, particularly on the defensive end, although he may have found something in the Lakers’ win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
With Anthony Davis missing the game due to illness, the Lakers were short on big men, so Vogel went to lineups with LeBron James at center at times in the second half. Those lineups worked out really well as it allowed James to anchor the defense and also provided him with more spacing on offense.
In the 21 minutes that LeBron has played center this season, the Lakers have outscored their opponents 65-44. That allowed them to come back from double digits to earn an overtime victory over the Pacers with James pouring in a season-high 39 points.
After the Lakers ended their road trip on a high note, James said he saw some things they can build off moving forward, with more lineups with him at center potentially being one of them.
“Yeah, I think we can sense some of the things that we can do,” LeBron said. “I think there was a couple lineups out there that really worked for us and I believe will work for us in the future, in the immediate future. We will continue to build off that, but just getting healthy is the most important thing in our league and for us, we haven’t had a full group yet.
“We’re still missing two of our big key acquisitions in the offseason in [Kendrick Nunn] and [Trevor Ariza] and we look forward to getting them back whenever they return. But in the meantime, we got some gigantic contributions tonight. Malik was fantastic, Melo was great, Dwight was great in his minutes and Wayne got it going from the 3-point line and that was fantastic. Big time.”
The Lakers were able to hold the Pacers to just 50 points in the second half and overtime, and Malik Monk believes James playing center and seeing the whole court was a big reason for that.
“He knows every play. He knows every play from every team. He knows what’s coming,” Monk said. “He’s been in this situation too many times not to know what’s going on and not to communicate with us and us being better is him communicating and letting us know everything while he’s in the backline.”
With the expected return of Davis, it remains to be seen how much James will actually play center moving forward, although that could be a good option in the minutes Davis isn’t on the floor.
James explains why he got fan ejected
When James was in the midst of an incredible scoring stretch in the fourth quarter and overtime to beat the Pacers, he actually stopped the game for a second to have the referees eject a couple of fans sitting courtside.
James is no stranger to hecklers in opposing arenas, but he explained why he had these ones kicked out.
“Nothing was uncomfortable for me, but there’s a difference between cheering on your home faithful, heckling the opponents and things of that nature, not wanting your opponents to be successful, and then there’s moments where it goes outside the lines with obscene gestures and words that shouldn’t be tolerated in our game from nobody. I wouldn’t say that to a fan and a fan should never say that to a player.”
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