Ahead of the contest against the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel announced that both LeBron James and Alex Caruso would be not be suiting up.
Quinn Cook started in place of James, but another change was also made to the lineup as Kyle Kuzma replaced JaVale McGee. Of course, the Rockets present a different challenge than any other team in the NBA with their extremely small lineup and the amount of 3-pointers they shoot.
Centers such as McGee can struggle against a team like that, and it ultimately resulted in McGee not ever leaving the bench during the Lakers’ latest loss. “It was just a coach’s decision,” head coach Frank Vogel explained.
“I knew I wanted to see what a small lineup looked like to start with Kuz in there. That means sometimes it’s going to be difficult to play both centers. It doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to go with that if we play these guys in the playoffs. It was just something I wanted to look at.”
It’s extremely important for Vogel to get a good look at all the different players he has at his disposal and figure out what lineups work well together. The Lakers may need to turn to different things during the playoffs depending on matchups, and it would benefit the players overall if they have had some time on the court together to develop some chemistry.
The Lakers’ main rotation players are known, but there will surely come a time whether due to injuries, foul trouble, or other unforeseen circumstances where someone like Cook, JR Smith or Talen Horton-Tucker could have their number called.
Players being comfortable is conducive to their success so Vogel finding out those lineup combinations now is of the utmost importance. McGee will have his place in certain matchups, but now is the time to experiment and find out who can be relied upon and Vogel is doing just that in these last few Lakers seeding games.
Vogel says Horton-Tucker is making the case for a rotation spot
With both James and Caruso sitting out, there were extra backcourt minutes to be had. The player who seemed to benefit most was Horton-Tucker. The young guard had his issues, but overall impressed as he finished with 10 points and four steals against the Rockets.
“He continues to surprise and impress me. He’s making a case for being in the rotation with the way he’s performed in this whole restart,” Vogel said.
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