The Lakers may yet again be looking at a starting lineup change for the second time in three postseason games. After a brutal first half and a spirited second-half comeback in Game 1 vs. the Nuggets, head coach Darvin Ham is reportedly considering starting Rui Hachimura, according to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report.
Sources: Lakers are considering a lineup change for Game 2 versus Nuggets. pic.twitter.com/I8OhxN0Jcc— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) May 18, 2023
It’s unclear exactly who Hachimura would replace in the starting lineup, but there are two obvious options.
Dennis Schröder was the one who recently stepped into the starting lineup after coming off the bench to start the postseason. A move back to the bench could make sense, as he’s familiar and comfortable with that role as a reserve and sixth man. It would, however, remove one of the team’s best defenders against Jamal Murray from the starting lineup.
D’Angelo Russell is the other option to come out of the starting lineup. After struggling mightily in Game 1, something Nuggets head coach Mike Malone was pleased to see, Russell is likely on a shorter leash moving forward. The Lakers have at least considered removing him from the starting lineup but are reportedly worried about how that would impact Russell with a demotion to the bench.
It’s a big call for Ham and his staff ahead of a very important Game 2. Hachimura had a big Game 1 in his own right, both offensively and defensively, and certainly deserves an increase in minutes and potentially a starting lineup spot.
And to the roster’s credit, the Lakers have moved people in and out of the starting lineup throughout this postseason run without any sort of issues or complaints, at least publicly. Everything’s easier when you’re winning, but the team has been willing to sacrifice in that regard throughout the postseason.
The Lakers, obviously, still need to steal home court advantage — and the longer into the series it goes without them doing so, the more pressure each game carries only increases. That puts even more pressure on Ham’s decision heading into tonight’s Game 2.
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