Andre Drummond, who started Wednesday night’s contest, didn’t play at all in the final frame, nor did Montrezl Harrell, who ended the night having played just under 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Wesley Matthews played more minutes in the fourth quarter than he did in the first three quarters combined. With Matthews on the court in that play-in game, the Lakers’ net rating improved from -20.3 to +52.5.
It can’t be easy for any head coach to bench their starting center, or a player that won the Sixth Man on the Year award in 2020 in a crucial game, but Vogel seems in confident his and his coaching staff’s ability to make the right in-game adjustments.
“For me, it’s just about whatever it takes to win that game,” Vogel said. “We coach to win. We set that tone with our group at the beginning of the season every year and our guys understand that some nights they’re going to play more than others, and we’re going to put the guys out there that are going to help us win that game.
“I put a great deal of thought into how a game could play out, and what impacts certain guys in that game, and obviously the coaching staff does a great job of making group decisions with me in-game to help us feel that stuff out. It doesn’t always play out well, but it’s one of those things where you just study it relentlessly, be as prepared as possible and make the best decisions that you can.”
The center position is where the bulk of those decisions will have to be made for the Lakers, with Drummond, Harrell, Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol all competing for minutes, but it’s not the only position. For example, Alex Caruso closed Wednesday’s game at point guard instead of Dennis Schröder, who started all of the 61 games he was available for in the regular season.
There will definitely be times where Vogel’s adjustments are questioned, particularly when it comes to the timing of the adjustments he makes. But if there’s one thing he’s shown throughout his tenure as the Lakers’ head coach, it’s that he’s not afraid to change things up, for better or for worse. Fortunately for the Lakers, it’s mostly been for the better thus far.