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Lakers to bench JaVale McGee, start Markieff Morris for Game 4 vs. Rockets

The Lakers have made their first starting lineup change of the NBA playoffs, with Markieff Morris replacing JaVale McGee with the starters when Game 4 tips off.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets - Game Three Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

For the first time since the NBA playoffs began — and one of the few times this season — JaVale McGee will not hear his name called when the Lakers introduce their starting lineup for Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals vs. the Rockets. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has opted to go small and make his first adjustment to the starters of the postseason, and will start Markieff Morris in McGee’s place.

This change is not a total surprise, as Morris has been excellent against the Rockets so far, and a key to the Lakers’ success while going a little smaller so they can switch more easily against Houston. He gave the team a “huge boost” with 16 points off the bench in Game 2, and was a big part of their success while starting for McGee in the second half of Game 3. He is averaging 6 points and 3 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game during this series, and the Lakers have a net rating of +11.6 with him on the floor, and -5.5 with him on the bench.

McGee has seen his role decrease as the Western Conference Semifinals have moved along, playing fewer minutes in each successive game against Houston before finally losing his starting spot, first in the second half of Game 3, and now outright for Game 4. McGee is averaging 1.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 9.1 minutes per game against the Rockets, and the Lakers have been 7.4 points per 100 possessions better when he sits during this series than they have been when he plays. That’s a small sample size of games, to be sure, but it reflects the eye test indicating that this team has played most of it’s good minutes without the veteran seven footer. Additionally, he has been dealing with an ankle sprain since Game 2.

McGee evidently decided to use the change as motivation to put some extra work in. How he continues to react to this alteration of the status quo will be worth monitoring moving forward.

The Lakers and their new-look starters will tip off against the Rockets at 4:00 p.m. PT, and the game will be televised on TNT.

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