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The Lakers ruthlessly targeted CJ McCollum in overtime

After their offense fell apart down the stretch, the Lakers went mismatch hunting during the extra period.

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New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Lakers had some serious offensive struggles down the stretch of regulation against New Orleans Wednesday. After Austin Reaves made a lay-up in transition with 7:06 to play in the fourth, the Lakers went four minutes without making another field goal, and then another three minutes before Matt Ryan’s heroics sent the game to overtime.

A mix of turnovers, poorly-timed hero ball, and a couple of inexplicable misses at the rim almost set up the Lakers for failure, so the team had to simplify its offensive approach in overtime. The key: find the weak link on defense. With Larry Nance Jr., Zion Williamson, Trey Murphy III, and Naji Marshall also on the court, the Lakers decided to attack the fifth Pelican, CJ McCollum, as much as possible.

“We found something in overtime with trying to get CJ in it,” Anthony Davis said postgame. “So whether it’s whoever CJ is guarding screening for Bron, now he has to switch with CJ, and now I'm coming to screen. Or it might just be small-small pick-and-roll with Bron handling, so just trying to find where CJ’s guy was and make him have to guard the pick-and-roll. and we started getting what we wanted. So that’s really it, just trying to figure out who the guy is we want to attack and make reads out of it.”

The Lakers started targeting McCollum from the first play of the extra period. Patrick Beverley came over to screen for LeBron James, and New Orleans switched, leaving the 6’3 Pelicans guard on the King. LeBron drove at him, missed (a common theme for LeBron on a night when he looked to be under the weather), and then stepped out of bounds on the offensive rebound. Good process, bad result.

Next play, the Lakers got the switch they wanted again, but this time LeBron gave the ball up to Austin Reaves and got into the post. Reaves got the ball to Davis, who got the ball to LeBron right under the basket, and McCollum was forced to foul, so the Lakers got to reset.

This time, another variation of attacking McCollum by running a pick-and-roll between Beverley (McCollum’s matchup) and Davis. Beverley threw the pocket pass to Davis, the defense collapsed, and Davis was able to skip the ball out to Lonnie Walker IV for a wide-open three. Next time down, the Lakers got McCollum switched onto LeBron again with a Beverley screen, leading to a James/Davis pick-and-roll. McCollum fell behind, Nance lost track of Davis as he was following LeBron’s drive to the rim, and AD was able to get an easy putback.

That was the last score the Lakers had in the half court, as LeBron curiously decided to attack Zion and Marshall on two later possessions, but a pair of transition buckets were all the team needed to secure the victory. James was a critical piece of those two scores, atoning for some of his other decision-making foibles on the evening.

Sometimes, the Lakers have to realize they have the biggest, baddest ball handler in the league, and bullying opponents can be the most effective way of wearing them down. In a five-minute extra session, there isn’t always time to adjust, and the Lakers could get what they wanted over and over again. For five minutes, they bullied poor CJ McCollum, and they ended up with a win.

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