Anthony Davis describes benefits of Lakers playing smaller lineups

Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis has had much more space to operate when the Lakers go small. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Despite being up 2-1 in their second-round series against the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel did not sit idly and wait for them to adjust. Instead, he made his first starting lineup change of the playoffs, sitting JaVale McGee and instead giving a starting nod to Markieff Morris for their wire-to-wire game four win.

The move was a culmination of the Lakers slowly going smaller and smaller in their lineups as this series has gone by. Dwight Howard has not played since the game one loss and McGee did not see the floor in the second half of game three before being benched for the entirety of game four, as well. The Lakers were presumed to want to go big and punish the Rockets’ lack of size. Instead, they matched them (to an extent) and did so more productively.

Of course, Anthony Davis is the key to making this work successfully. The big man can play either of the front court positions despite preferring to play power forward during the grueling 82-game season. When he does move to the center position, he can continue protecting the paint while also not being afraid to step out on shooters and prevent jump shots. After the game, Davis explained why the Lakers’ smaller lineups have worked so well:

It’s interesting that Davis notes the positive effects on the Lakers’ defense first, rather than the increased spacing that has allowed him and LeBron James to feast in the paint offensively. But that is the mentality of a defense-first Lakers team that has seen Morris become a key to a 3-1 series lead based mainly on his ability to guard nearly everyone on the Rockets while not sacrificing size on the glass.

Davis, of course, made sure to give praise to McGee and Howard for their engagement levels despite not playing as many minutes as they would surely like to in this series:

If you watch the sidelines at any point during a big Lakers play, you are almost certain to spot two giant seven-footers jumping around like children cheering their teammates on. The Lakers have hung their hats on their chemistry all season long and it is allowing them to insert cogs into their machine at any point and see them succeed.

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