With the Lakers making strides but still being thoroughly outplayed by the Clippers in the third quarter of Wednesday’s game, LeBron James took his usual mid-quarter rest at the 5:35 mark, with Christian Wood taking his place. This gave the Lakers two bigs on the floor with Wood and Davis, a combo that has found success during this early part of the season.
Then Ham made a substitution that no one saw coming.
He put Jaxson Hayes in and took out guard Cam Reddish, giving the Lakers a three-big lineup. Normally you might see a Rui Hachimura substitution or even some Gabe Vincent minutes here, but with both players ruled out for this game, Ham went with the next best player available.
Throughout the game, L.A. went small vs. small against the Clippers and were now going as big as possible during non-LeBron minutes to close out a quarter. Even with the roster being shorthanded it didn’t make sense.
Some very small sample size lineup data— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) November 2, 2023
LeBron/Wood - 49 min, +56.7 net rating
Davis/Wood - 52 min, +29.8 net rating
LeBron/Davis/Wood - 44 min, +63.7 net rating
Davis/Wood/Hayes - 4 min, +116.7 net rating
“Athletic ability. The length. The size. Their ability to move their feet,” Ham said of what the lineup gave them team postgame after the win. “It also allowed us to finish the quarter without having to rush Bron back into the game. That three-man lineup across the front line, these guys take up a lot of space defensively, they all have great hands, they all get off the floor and block shots so anything at the rebound is going to be highly contested and they all rebound.
“So, that gave us a great push, a great boost of energy going into the fourth quarter.”
The Lakers went on a 15-5 run to regain the lead for the first time since the opening minute, changing the course of the game. It still took the purple and gold overtime to beat the Clippers and end the 11-game losing streak, but the three-big lineup catalyzed the comeback.
“That lineup of AD, C-Wood and Jax gave us a lot of length and ability to switch a lot of things but also rebound, as well, on misses,” James said after his 35-point performance. “It was good minutes for us.”
Rebounding has been an Achilles heel for this Lakers team along with poor three-point shooting, which makes for a terrible combination. With this three-big lineup helping the Lakers win the rebounding battle 51-46, it allowed them to get second-chance opportunities and end Clippers possessions after one shot attempt, helping turn a 19-point deficit into a five-point victory.
We’ve never seen this three-big lineup from the Lakers. However, challenges force ingenuity, so perhaps Ham struck gold by going big in an era where everyone is going small.
Or maybe the Clippers just Clippered.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.