Andre Drummond played just under 17 minutes when the Los Angeles Lakers played the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, and for good reason: The Warriors clogged the paint and made the Lakers’ big men work for their shots. Drummond is many things, but a difficult shot-maker isn’t one of them.
Then, on the defensive end, Drummond struggled to keep up with the Warriors’ small-ball lineups, which isn’t a reflection of his defensive talent, or lack thereof; very few traditional centers have had success against Steve Kerr’s small-ball lineups. Even Anthony Davis had trouble keeping up for a while.
It’s typically not good practice to try and beat the Warriors using small-ball because most teams don’t have the personnel to do it. However, the Lakers are one of the few teams that do, and if they weren’t cognizant of that before Wednesday’s game, they should be now.
While not every lineup with Davis at center was successful, the ones that worked really worked. For example, the five-man lineup of Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews, LeBron James and Davis posted a net rating of +81.0 in the three minutes they played together in the fourth quarter. That lineup won the Lakers the game.
After the game, Vogel talked at length about his decision to go small in the fourth quarter, and he made it a point to talk about the success that those lineups had rather than the lack of success the lineups with Drummond had.
“It’s necessary,” Vogel said. “We used the first half rotations similarly to how we did last year with Dwight and JaVale where we played big most of the first half and then we used the final three minutes to look at the small lineup and see what that feels like against this opponent.
“I thought Drummond played a great game,” Vogel added. “It wasn’t anything that he was doing. He was really competing on the defensive end and getting tap outs and rebounding the basketball, and scoring the ball for us as well, but just opening up AD at the five... to have that versatility and have that move to go to is something that worked for us in the playoffs last year, and worked for us tonight.”
Anthony Davis also went out of his way to praise Drummond for his contributions in Wednesday’s win, and he attributed Drummond’s exclusion for the late-game lineups to a lack of experience, not talent or ability.
“Drummond was dominant tonight in the minutes that he played,” Davis said. “They’re just a special group. They play Draymond (Green) a lot at the five with four guards, and so it kind of put us at a little disadvantage on the defensive end. Drum is not used to making those rotations, and we just made an adjustment.”
The Warriors aren’t the last team that will force the Lakers to go “small” with Davis at the 5. Even on nights where Davis and Drummond are gelling, the Lakers’ best lineups will feature Davis at the 5 more often than not.
JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard understood that dynamic last season, and although Drummond is at a different point in his career than they were, he seems to understand that too, according to Davis.
“The good thing about our team is everyone knows their role,” Davis said. “If we make an adjustment mid-game where we go small and I’m at the five, no one is complaining. No one is upset because at the end of the day it’s all about winning. So he understood that. He understood, had no problem, he was up on the bench cheering for us and helping us out with his perspective on the floor and we was able to get the win.
“The locker room is great. We’ve got a great group of guys who understand that, same way as last year. So there might be other games where we do the same thing. There might be games where we go big with Drum at the five and I’m at the four. It’s all about matchups, and tonight was one of those nights.”