Another night in the NBA has passed and the Los Angeles Lakers are still the best team in the NBA, and they showed why in their statement win over the Miami Heat on Friday at Staples Center.
The Lakers held the Heat to 80 points through four quarters, including just 34 points in the second half. Going into Friday night’s game, Miami ranked eighth in the league in points per game, third in field goal percentage and first in 3-point percentage. After seeing Los Angeles, they fell to 14th in points per game, 11th in field goal percentage and fourth in 3-point percentage.
The Lakers didn’t exactly pile on the points either, scoring just 95 points (tied for their season-low), but after the team’s win, head coach Frank Vogel said that as long as they’re keeping the other team from scoring, it doesn’t matter how many points they put on the board.
“If you have a great defense, your offense can come and go,” Vogel said. “When the looks weren’t falling, our defense kept us in the game. Our defense in the second half to hold a team in the modern era to 34 points? A 6-2 team? Just super, super impressed with our guys’ commitment, their execution and everything about their defense.”
Vogel was especially impressed when he saw just how well the Lakers defended the Heat on paper.
“Our analytics guys sent us a report that we contested 88% of their shots throughout the game. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of that. Just a really exceptional effort on the defensive end for our guys.”
For the Lakers, though, it was just another day at the office.
”To be honest, that’s just us, period,” LeBron James said. “That’s just who we are. We’ve been doing this all year. We don’t expect to hold teams at 80, but we expect to defend every single game and make it tough on teams. Try to hold them under their averages. And we did that once again tonight.”
Anthony Davis, who led the Lakers with three blocks, went a little more in-depth on how the Lakers were able to cool down the Heat offensively on Friday.
“We know they like to shoot 3s. A lot of their guys, they’ve got quick triggers, so we wanted to get a good contest and not close out short and give them their shots, or run them off the line. And obviously when they get in the paint, we want to make sure we contest all paint shots. We’re just doing what the game plan and it was over that we held them to 17% from 3,” Davis said.
“That was a good team. They’re 6-2 and can score the ball. We held them to 82 points, but I think we’ve been good defensively all year, though. It just adds to what we’ve been doing.”
Vogel had a feeling the Lakers were going to be a good team defensively, but he’s been pleasantly surprised with just how quickly the team has bought into that end of the floor this season.
“We have a lot of experience on our coaching staff, we know how to put in a system schematically that will work for us, and we have a lot of defensive talent,” Vogel said. “The question mark was ‘what’s our care factor going to be like early in the season and how quickly it’s going to take for it to come together.’ But because the care factor has been high, it’s come together pretty quickly.”
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