It looked like the Los Angeles Lakers were on their way to another disappointing loss as they found themselves down at the half against the Orlando Magic.
With the Lakers struggling to defend the Magic’s five-out lineup, head coach Frank Vogel decided to switch up his starting lineup and went with Stanley Johnson instead of Dwight Howard to begin the third quarter. The decision paid off immediately as Los Angeles reeled off a 9-0 run and never looked back, holding off Orlando and coming away with the victory.
Vogel revealed that he started Johnson to enable the Lakers to switch more and explained why he didn’t start the game with it.
“We didn’t know coming into the game what lineups they were going to put out there with [Wendell] Carter coming back, Vogel said. “So we didn’t want to be flipping back and forth throughout the day so we started the same way we were going to start. But ideally if they’re going to have Bamba as the lone big out there, that was a lineup that we were going to switch everything and try to take away the three from him. And we got a little crossed up with trying to get that match up in the first half, made the adjustment at halftime by starting Stanley and the switching was really good. I thought it stalled out a lot of their action.”
Johnson’s insertion into the lineup was a breath of fresh air, but Vogel still expects matchups to dictate how they will play moving forward.
“Well, it depends on who we’re going against and we want to build a rotation of flexibility where if we’re playing against five 3-point shooters, we can put a switch-everything lineup out there that plays with the space that we’ve been benefiting of over the last 3-4 weeks. But we also want to be able to play with Dwight and DJ as a center in there when we’re playing against bigger guys. And tonight we were able to do both. I think not just the adjustment of Stanley playing the defensive five so to speak to start the third quarter, but Dwight coming in against Carter because Carter hurt us in the first half. He was a plus-17 in his minutes. So just making that adjustment gave us the ability to mix pitches throughout the game.”
Johnson would end the night with 11 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block, but his overall impact could not be measured from the box score. As has been the case with the Laker small-ball lineups, they flew around the floor switching most actions and that in turn stifled the Magic offensively.
At this point in the season, Los Angeles’ best bet to winning games is to give their young players like Johnson more run as the team is in desperate need of their athleticism and perimeter foot speed. Aside from Johnson, Austin Reaves and Malik Monk also had strong games and they could be the key to a second-half run as the Lakers try to climb back up in the standings.
With the Miami Heat on tap next, it will be interesting to see whether or not Vogel intends to go small and start with Johnson or if he sticks with Howard at center. The former seems like the preferred option, though perhaps the matchup with Bam Adebayo will cause some concern.
Vogel didn’t feel need to snap at Lakers during halftime
In previous games that the Lakers have struggled in first half, Vogel has mentioned the need to lay into his team in order to play better. That wasn’t the case against the Magic, however.
“Yeah, I would say it was a calm in the room,” Vogel said. “Talk about what adjustments we needed to make, where we need to be better. But it wasn’t a halftime where I snapped or anything like that.”
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