The Los Angeles Lakers let the Portland Trail Blazers slip away in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s game, and Frank Vogel’s decision to keep Montrezl Harrell in the game played a big part in the Trail Blazers’ comeback.
While Harrell was getting things done offensively, scoring 9 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field, he was letting the Trail Blazers get whatever they wanted on the defensive end, particularly in the fourth quarter.
The Blazers relentlessly attacked Montrezl Harrell late in the fourth to hold onto their lead over the Lakers.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) December 29, 2020
It didn't go well for Trez... pic.twitter.com/3WoDqS2i36
Harrell ended the game with a plus-minus of -20, and the closing lineup of Dennis Schröder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Harrell posted a net rating of -18.6 in the seven minutes they played together, all of which came in that fourth quarter stretch. Comparatively, the starting lineup, which featured Marc Gasol in place of Harrell, posted a net rating of 57.6 in the 16 minutes they played together.
Vogel probably should have changed things up down the stretch, but he wanted to get an extended look at how Harrell fit with the starters, and after getting that look, he’s encouraged about what that unit can accomplish going forward, even though they didn’t get the result that they wanted.
“We’re a new team, so we’re going to continue to look at different things with Marc or Trezz finishing, or we have the ability to slide AD over to the five,” Vogel said. “I hadn’t had Keef in the game because I wanted to have a ballhandler in there with ‘Bron during that stretch that Keef normally plays, and he would have been cold if I’d put him in late. I like the lineup that we had out there, but we just weren’t able to get the job done.”
Vogel emphasized that playing Harrell alongside Davis allowed them to breakdown the Trail Blazers’ defense in a way they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, particularly in pick-and-roll situations. Davis was also a fan of what he and Harrell were able to do on offense, and he doesn’t think Monday night’s result should discourage Vogel from using that lineup in crunch time again.
“I think it was a good lineup,” Davis said. “That’s probably one of the lineups we’ll look to a lot when it comes to crunch time. We’re able to defer to Dennis when guys are picking ‘Bron up full-court like Derrick Jones tried to do today; we’re still able to run pick-and-rolls, I’m able set the screen, Trezz is able to set the screen; and then we can have Kenny out there, or Kuz, or Wes — whoever has it going that night — and make plays and be great defensively ...
“I like that lineup. I like that finishing lineup that we have and the good thing about is that we can throw anybody in there because we’re so deep as a team. It looked good.”
That might not be what Lakers fans want to hear after their team collapsed in the fourth quarter, and after what happened with Harrell and the Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals, but it’s early enough in the season to where it isn’t a cause for concern yet.
Vogel will keep experimenting, and the hope is that he’ll have it all figured it out by the time the postseason rolls around. If he doesn’t, then the alarms can be sounded.