The Los Angeles Lakers beat their longtime foes last night, winning 96-95 against the Boston Celtics. The game came down to the wire, as Kemba Walker missed a mid-range pull-up to win the game in the waning moments. The shot came after a disappointing possession from the Lakers between LeBron James and Anthony Davis, as Davis had the ball stripped with the opportunity to secure a three-point lead going into the final play. Alex Caruso arguably saved the Lakers on defense following Davis’ turnover, with the miss from Walker securing a Lakers win in Boston following the Lakers’ 30-point loss in the building in their last contest there.
The Lakers came into this game on a two-game losing streak, their first losing streak of the season. It appears that Frank Vogel and the team were deadset on making sure they came out of Boston with a win, as Vogel really shortened his rotations in the game. The shortened rotations resulted in only nine players playing for the Lakers, a true playoff-esque rotation for Vogel. Wesley Matthews and Markieff Morris were the two victims of the shortened rotations, not playing in Saturday’s win.
Here’s what Frank Vogel had to say about the decision, per Bill Oram of The Athletic:
“It’s the toughest part of the job, to be honest,” he said. “You’ve got guys that are really good players that deserve minutes that you don’t have minutes for. It’s difficult. They’re tough conversations. But those two guys (Wesley Matthews and Markieff Morris) are consummate pros and this is not something permanent. This is, you know, we lost two in a row, let’s get a win tonight and go game-to-game from there.”
Alex Caruso received 19 minutes compared to his average of 17.9 minutes per game on the season, but Talen Horton-Tucker and Montrezl Harrell received the largest minutes boosts on the bench. They played 23 and 30 minutes, respectively, compared to 15.8 and 24.5 minutes per game on the season. Caruso had his usual positive impact on the game (team-high +14) while Harrell added his x-factor-type scoring with 16 points on 10 field-goal attempts. He also added some defense, tallying three blocks and two steals.
Frank Vogel has been experimenting with different lineups, causing some lineups to perform poorly as they are probably not lineups we will ever see in the playoffs. This move might give us perspective on how Vogel would approach a playoff series if he had to play one today. Still, things may change between now and the summer when the playoffs start, as Wesley Matthews and Markieff Morris may end up proving their worth over other players such as Horton-Tucker and Caruso as we continue on this rollercoaster of a COVID season.