Rajon Rondo isn’t worth the headache
Rajon Rondo made his playoff debut for the Lakers on Friday, and while there were moments where he looked poised despite it being his first organized basketball game in six months, he also showed why most fans were happier with him on the bench.
Part of the intrigue in playing Rondo in this series was his ability to play make plays out of the pick and roll. However, the hope was that his role would be limited, and that his minutes would be tethered with Anthony Davis. That wasn’t the case on Friday.
Rondo played 24:32, which is four more minutes than his season average (20.5 minutes per game). It was also eight more minutes than Alex Caruso played. One could argue that was a result of Caruso being in foul trouble, but that doesn’t explain why Rondo was on the floor in crunch time.
Worst of all, Rondo’s ability to make plays out of the pick and roll were nowhere to be found because apparently that wasn’t in Frank Vogel’s game plan on Friday. If that’s going to be the case going forward, Rondo shouldn’t see anywhere near the 24 minutes he saw on Friday. His defense isn’t worth the headache, nor is his offense (although he did shoot a respectable 2-5 from 3-point range, at the very least).
One size doesn’t fit all
In the two times the Lakers have played the Rockets since the trade deadline in February, Houston has overwhelmed them with their small-ball lineups. One would think that would lead Vogel to try something different on Friday, but he didn’t — he rolled out the same five starters he’s rolled out since the start of the playoffs. Unsurprisingly, it led to the Lakers looking a step slower.
In Vogel’s defense, the Lakers have been really successful when they’ve played big the season. After all, they did finish the regular season with the No. 1 record in the Western Conference and beat the Portland Trail Blazers in five games with their two-center rotation. However, the Lakers’ bigs haven’t done anything against the Rockets to justify them keeping their minutes in this series. The same held true on Friday.
The Lakers just weren’t getting the benefits of playing big, while still facing all of the drawbacks. Not only were they outscored 42-40 in the painted area, but the Rockets grabbed as many rebounds as them despite not having a traditional big man on the floor.
That’s a problem. The question is: how do they fix it?
Do they get their bigs more involved in offense by becoming pick-and-roll heavy, or do they commit to Anthony Davis at center full-time? If it’s the latter, what does that lineup look like?
Those are the question Frank Vogel will have to answer before his team takes the court again on Sunday.
Everyone needs to be better
The Rockets didn’t beat the Lakers by playing their game on Friday, and that was the most discouraging part of the loss — almost all of the Lakers’ wounds were self-inflicted. They’re capable of winning this series, but not with the way they played on Friday. Everyone, from Frank Vogel to the 10th man off the bench, needs to be better.