Marc Gasol looked on from the bench as the Los Angeles Lakers struggled to contain DeAndre Ayton in Game 1 of their series with the Phoenix Suns.
Just a few weeks prior to Sunday’s game, Gasol played a pivotal role in the Lakers’ 123-110 win over the Suns with LeBron James sidelined. That game also marked the first time that Frank Vogel played Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Montrezl Harrell and Gasol in the same game. Gasol had highest net rating (+25.6) among the centers that night.
It was never realistic to think that all four of Davis, Drummond, Harrell and Gasol would play in the postseason, especially with how much time Davis spends at both the 4 and 5 in the playoffs, but it was a little surprising to see Gasol — a player with more playoff experience than Drummond and Harrell combined — on the bench in a game they trailed for the majority of.
Vogel wouldn’t say whether or not Gasol would get playing time in Game 2 after practice on Monday, but he did give an explanation as to why he didn’t turn to the veteran big man.
“That game (a few weeks ago) we played Marc and Trezz together, which is a lineup we’re not really that familiar with, and I decided in Game 1 not to use that lineup,” Vogel said. “I have confidence in all three of our centers, and AD at the five, so if I don’t go to a certain player or certain player or certain lineup, a lot of time it has nothing to do with that player; it’s just confidence in another player or another lineup, and I’d say that’s the case with Marc not playing in Game 1.”
The good news for Gasol is that Vogel doesn’t seem to think that going smaller is necessarily the solution to beating to the Suns, so he could get some burn in Game 2. However, Harrell and Drummond probably did just enough in Game 1 to keep their spots in the rotation for another game.
If that results in the Lakers winning on Wednesday, then that’s great, but if the Lakers struggle in the same ways, it will be hard for Vogel to justify having Gasol on the bench again.
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