The Dallas Mavericks have gone from a cool story at the start of the year to one of the league’s most legitimately dangerous offenses, and look to be one of the potentially tougher outs in the Western Conference playoff picture. Having already been run off their court by Dallas once this season, the Los Angeles Lakers knew they had to make an adjustment — which they did, and it paid dividends.
Frank Vogel was asked about the Lakers’ zone-centric approach to slowing down Luka Doncic and the rest of the Mavericks, and said the concept was something everyone came up with together.
“I was really proud of our defensive effort and the competitive spirit,” Vogel said after the Lakers beat Dallas on Sunday. “We just really competed whatever defense we were in.
“We did some things defensively, scheme-wise, that I hoped would try to keep us home on their shooters a little bit more and at least closer to their shooters, (but) you know they’re gonna shoot 40 threes a game regardless. I was proud with how we completed and executed the gameplan.”
But even if it worked, Vogel said the decision and then eventual execution of a zone wasn’t exactly easy to stomach.
“It makes me uncomfortable. That’s the first thing that throwing a zone out there does. You said a little bit more than in the past, I think that’s the first we played zone all year with the exception of the preseason some,” he said.
“Facing the No. 1 offensive team in the league by a large margin, sometimes you got to junk the game a little bit. Throw them just a different look, they threw it to us, and usually we end up prevailing, but we can just change the game up a little bit. I presented it to our team as an option, (asked them) ‘how do you guys feel about it?’ And the guys liked the idea, and I think it was pretty effective tonight.”
Anthony Davis agreed with Vogel’s analysis of the zone.
“I think it was good. I think it kinda messed them up a little bit. Tried to show different sets to Porzingis and Luka and it kinda disrupted them a little bit, taking them out of their offense,” Davis said.
As you’ll remember, Davis was pretty annoyed with the defensive effort over the team’s four-game losing streak. He said by focusing on that end, the Lakers were able to right the ship.
“We were able to get back to what we do defensively, and when we do that we’re able to beat any team and feel good about ourselves,” Davis said, praising the team’s defensive effort against two explosive offensive teams in the Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers.
“When we do what we’re supposed to do on the defensive end and we play with a lot of pace, sharing the basketball, getting in the passing lanes, getting steals and deflections, we’re a tough team to beat.”
It’s good to see the team on the same page even through the adversity of a recent losing streak, chemistry that showed through in how they came together and discussed a different approach to dealing with a very good team. These are the kinds of things that get a roster through the slugfest that is an 82-game NBA season.
Were there still things they might have changed in both this win and the one against Portland the night before? Sure. But you have to take those victories and learn from them as they go along. If they figured something out against a Dallas team they very easily could face in the playoffs this year, then this game will pay dividends far beyond the usual late-December win.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can yell at the author of this article on Twitter @AnthonyIrwinLA. If you want to support more writing like this, you can do so here.