dirty unfortunate closeout on Brandon Ingram five minutes into the game left the Lakers without their best wing defender, against a team that possesses unusual size at those positions. Rudy Gay always torches Kyle Kuzma and last night was no different, while DeMar DeRozan is just too big and skilled for the contests of Josh Hart or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to bother him.
Luke Walton said that Kuzma had been wanting to defend DeRozan the whole night, and he got his wish in the fourth quarter, demonstrating more of his improved perimeter defense than he did against Gay. His size, along with Tyson Chandler’s ability to “shock the ball” (hedge at the level of the ball screen) combined to slow DeRozan, and the resulting defensive stops allowed LeBron James to push in transition.
Let’s take a close look at how they were able to turn it around.
LeBron looked like a man who had gotten 11 hours of sleep the night before (and a 2.5-hour nap in the afternoon!) amidst a 20-point fourth quarter where he was nothing short of unstoppable. His relentlessness in transition created opportunities for both himself and his teammates, including a trio of catch and shoot threes from Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball in big moments. LeBron hit each of his threes in the last six minutes of the game, bringing Staples Center to increasing levels of frenzy.
The Lakers have established an identity built around LeBron’s offensive greatness, the rim protection of Tyson Chandler and JaVale McGee, and the length and activity of the young core on defense. Wednesday night capped an exciting 4-0 home stand that saw the Lakers leaving Staples Center as the best version of themselves.