With the Lakers nearly back to full strength, Frank Vogel reverted back to a version of a lineup used earlier in the season highlighted by Anthony Davis starting a center on Tuesday against the Celtics. The move paid big dividends as, after a brief barrage from Jayson Tatum to open the game, the Lakers earned a comfortable blowout win over their rivals, 117-102.
The game was won in the paint for the Lakers, who outscored visiting Boston 66-42 in the interior on the night despite playing one non-Davis center in Dwight Howard, who only played 13 minutes in the win.
After the contest, Vogel spoke about what led to the team’s dominance inside on the night.
“I think largely because of the lineup,” Vogel said, “we put AD at the five the whole night, we didn’t play any bigger lineups which sometimes comprises your defense but, like I said, we’re looking at things. Hopefully, we can play those lineups without it comprising your defense. If you give guys like Russ, Bron and AD the open lane to attack, hopefully we can have that type of night in terms of attacking the paint. Hopefully, we can add 3-point shooting to it as well. We didn’t shoot the ball that well tonight but still had a strong performance.”
While fans may look at the move as a “Well, duh!” one, the Lakers haven’t had the luxury of playing Davis exclusively at the five for large portions of this season. LeBron James’ injury paired with Trevor Ariza’s severely limited the team’s forward depth, almost requiring Davis to play the four as a result.
Overall this year, when Davis has played the center, the Lakers have a defensive rating of 109.6 and an overall net rating of -1.7 in 578 minutes. It’s a defensive rating that would rank among the bottom ten in the league and illustrates how much the team has struggled defensively this year.
With James in the lineup alongside Davis as the four and five, respectively, this year, the Lakers still have a defensive rating of 109.2 in 206 minutes but have a net rating of +3.5. The Lakers have a pathway now, with James back in the lineup and seemingly recovered from his lingering injuries and shaking off the rust of his time away from the court, to playing more Davis at center lineups while also still playing positive basketball.
If Tuesday is any indication of what this iteration of the Lakers can look like with James and Davis anchoring the frontcourt positions, then the team could actually, finally, truly be turning the corner.
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