Before I start this, I just want to say one thing. GET THAT CELTIC ASS! Shoutout to James Worthy.
With that being said, Jayson Tatum was giving the Los Angeles Lakers all sorts of problems in yesterday’s game against the Boston Celtics. The Lakers primarily had Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on Tatum. In fact, no Laker defended Tatum more that game than Caldwell-Pope. The Lakers have put him on some big wings like Tatum and Kawhi Leonard this year, and the results haven’t been great.
Now, that’s not Caldwell-Pope’s fault by any means. He’s a great defender that does a great job defending guards, but it’s not fair to ask a player of his size to defend someone as big as Tatum or Leonard. Tatum took advantage when Caldwell-Pope was either assigned to him, or when he switched onto him when a screen was set. The Lakers kept switching on screens, which forced not only Caldwell-Pope onto him, but Alex Caruso as well. Twice in the second quarter Tatum drove directly on Caruso when he was on him. There’s a 25 pound weight difference there.
Tatum wasn’t just picking on those guys though. Tatum at times was even scoring on Anthony Davis, a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. In fact, he shot 3-4 when Davis was guarding him.
Tatum was just in his bag on Sunday, so the Lakers had to do something differently defensively. In that second half, they did:
The Lakers not only put Kuzma as the primary defender on Tatum, but they also started to throw double teams his way. As you’ll see in the video above, the double teams not only forced Tatum to throw it out to his teammates who would shoot tough threes, but he’d also throw the ball away.
The combination of Kuzma’s size and strength, as well as the double teams seemed to really disrupt Tatum.
“I think he’s good guarding wings, and in particular iso’s. That’s one area that Kuz can use his athleticism, especially against a thinner guy. Sometimes Kuz with bigger bodies can get bumped off, but against Tatum he did a really good job tonight,” said Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel. “He’s shown throughout the season in certain matchups that he can keep a guy in front of him and use his length to contest.”
When Vogel was asked about his defensive scheme in the fourth quarter, which only allowed Tatum to score four points, Vogel said that the Lakers “developed a part of our scheme to double team a hot player like that.”
With the addition of a big defender like Markieff Morris (6’10), the Lakers will now have another weapon to throw at wings — allowing players like Caldwell-Pope to stop having to try to defend them as often — but in case the Lakers have an issue where a player like Tatum gets hot, they at least know they have the blueprint for one game plan that can possibly work, and the right defenders to execute it well.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Ali on Twitter at @ali_behpoornia.