LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Los Angeles Lakers may need missed out on convincing Kawhi Leonard to affix LeBron James and Anthony Davis and kind a “large three” final summer season, however Lakers coach Frank Vogel says L.A.’s crew protection is ending up having the identical influence one other All-NBA particular person added to the combo would have had.
“That is as highly effective a weapon there may be in one in all these playoff runs. It is as highly effective as a famous person,” Vogel mentioned after L.A. beat the Houston Rockets 110-100 on Thursday to go up 3-1 of their Western Convention semifinal collection. “In case you have an elite protection, that may be your third star, so to talk.”
Past holding Houston to 43.4% taking pictures as a crew, L.A. restricted James Harden to only 21 factors on 2-for-11 taking pictures from the sector. Even with Harden making 16 of 20 free throw makes an attempt, he was stored effectively under his league-leading common of 34.Three factors per game.
James, who simply missed a triple-double with 16 factors, 15 rebounds and 9 assists in Game 4, emphasised simply how spectacular a feat the Lakers’ protection is making an attempt to drag off towards Harden.
“James might be among the finest offensive gamers that we have ever seen on this league,” the Lakers star mentioned. “I imply, he had 20 free throw makes an attempt and we’re making an attempt to not put him to the free throw line. Considered one of our sport plans is to not put him to the free throw line and we’re making an attempt to not put him to the free throw line, and the man is simply so intelligent that he was nonetheless in a position to get 20 free throw makes an attempt.
“So we’re simply making an attempt to remove something that we are able to from him, as a result of he can rating from [anywhere]. He will get into the paint together with his runners, together with his floaters. Clearly, he is received the step-back. He is received the 3s in transition. He has his catch-and-shoot 3s when he is off the ball. And like I mentioned, he is very tough together with his strikes within the paint, the place he will get to the free throw line. So we’re simply making an attempt to remove some issues. We will not take away all the pieces, as a result of that is how nice he’s offensively. We attempt to comply with the sport plan and see what occurs from there.”
L.A. trapped Harden 17 occasions within the pick-and-roll Thursday, which is greater than twice the quantity of occasions he has been trapped in a playoff sport up to now six years, in response to Second Spectrum knowledge. The Lakers trapped the previous MVP 13 occasions whole within the first three video games of the collection.
The Rockets averaged simply 0.714 factors per possession when the Lakers trapped Harden in Game 4. It was a serious drop-off from the 1.13 factors per possession Houston averaged within the common season, which ranked ninth within the league.
“When you could have the boldness you’ll be able to go 4, 5, six possessions the place you are simply squeezing the opposite crew‘s offense, getting stops after which with our capability to run the ground with LeBron James being the quarterback of that motion and being in assault mode, we’ve robust perception in what we are able to accomplish as a gaggle,” Vogel mentioned.
Regardless of the defensive exhibiting, Davis — who was the runner-up for Defensive Participant of the 12 months this season to the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo — was not happy together with his efficiency on that finish.
“I really feel I used to be a step gradual on defensive rotations tonight. I really feel I may be higher defensively,” mentioned Davis, who led the Lakers with 29 factors to go together with 12 rebounds, 5 assists and a pair of blocks. “Form of received knocked off my rhythm early [in Game 4]. However for me to only preserve going, I am going in and attempt to get offensive rebounds, display screen for my teammates, do all of the intangibles and ensure I can have an effect on the sport in different methods moreover simply scoring the basketball.”
L.A. could have an opportunity to shut out the Rockets in Game 5 on Saturday and advance to the Western Convention finals for the primary time since 2010.
“We’re proud of what we had been doing on the defensive finish,” Vogel mentioned. “It might at all times get higher. Clearly, the fouls [can be cut down]. Plan A with guarding James Harden is do not put him on the free throw line and we gave him 20 free throw makes an attempt. So, we received to ensure we’re doing a greater job there, however total, we’re simply making an attempt to restrict him and make him as uncomfortable as we are able to.
“He is seen each protection there may be on this planet and he is aware of methods to assault it. Like I mentioned all together with this group and with him: We’re not going to be snug as a result of we all know what he is able to. So, we simply received to proceed to look at movie, get higher, strengthen the plan every sport that we play and hopefully get higher in Sport 5.”