Early on in Thursday night’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Los Angeles Lakers were able to get out in transition and jump out to an early lead. Portland adjusted by either sending a big to the offensive glass, or making a concerted effort to get back in transition.
When they did the former, the Lakers had problems, and at practice, Lakers head Luke Walton said defensive rebounding was “probably” at the top of the Lakers’ list of issues they focused on.
“Especially with some of the lineups we’re going to be playing, that’s the part where it takes the continuity and chemistry of playing with each other, knowing that if we’re going to have small lineups, that all five guys are in there (securing the board),” Walton said.
This type of approach to rebounding requires consistent communication. If a team is going to rebound as a group in order to help a single player boxing out a bigger guy on a switch, they have to understand where that help is coming from so players who are getting out in transition know they can do so.
Walton gave a specific example of this.
“If we’re switching and we have guards, Josh Hart a couple of times got switched on the center he did a good job of boxing the big out,” Walton said. “He’s done his job, at that point someone needs to do what we call ‘sandwich rebounding,’ come in and get that rebound from the backside.”
When you think of getting out in transition, you usually picture guys risking offensive rebounds in order to get a step on their guy heading the other way. Walton says this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, and that players try to get a head start actually hurts the Lakers.
”We have guys that are really good at the throw-ahead pass, but we don’t need to leak out,” Walton explained. “We’re a really good running team as a unit. If we’re coming at you four, five deep — we call it ‘attacking in a wave’ — we’re going to score. Or at least we’re going to get in the paint and get a good look. So we don’t need the leak outs.
“We keep drilling every time a shot comes up, everyone comes back into the paint and then as a group we run it. It’s just habits.”
For a better picture of the wave Walton is speaking of, we have this in-depth breakdown.
Lakers in transition coming at you like pic.twitter.com/L7mVonokUG— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) October 19, 2018
In all seriousness, JaVale McGee agreed with Walton that the Lakers’ guards needed to drop down and help on the glass more, as did Hart.
“We’ve just got to pursue the ball,” Hart said. “We’re forcing those guys into tough shots and we want to get out in transition, (and) I think sometimes we tend to just kind of fade towards getting out in transition.
“Go and pursue the ball and then once we do that, we’ve got eight, nine guys that can rebound the ball and push it,” Hart said before reiterating. “We’ve just got to go and pursue the ball, that’s got to be the mindset.”
The Lakers really do need to improve at attacking in waves, because we had our own Pete Zayas (aka Laker Film Room) check, and he found zero exampled from the Portland game of the type of five-man transition attack Walton described. To be fair to the team, though, it was just one game and they were effective in their three-man breaks, even if they ended up hurting the team on the defensive glass.
The team also did have a few good examples of the type of group rebounding they need to succeed, even if they were sporadic, so things aren’t hopeless:
At the end of the day, this is the kind of thing that will improve as guys get more used to playing with each other. If they aren’t able to figure that out, a personnel adjustment might be in order. But as LeBron James and Rajon Rondo said after the game, it’s going to take time.