When Jarred Vanderbilt was acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers in February at the trade deadline, he assumed the role of guarding the opposing team’s best guard or forward every night. Vanderbilt provided much-needed defense, as well as energy, with his hustle plays and tenacity on the court.
While Vanderbilt’s shooting still needs to improve, his length and size as a wing in today’s game with many dynamic wing scorers is valued and provides that bonus of having fast enough footstep to guard guards occasionally. That would come in handy when the Lakers scraped and clawed into the postseason.
First up was having to guard Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, which Vanderbilt did his part in containing the explosive guard. It would only get harder in the second round guarding Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry with his constant on and off-ball movement.
“I think we ran three miles, we ran three miles that game. So I’m chasing Steph around and obviously Game 1 did a good job, Game 2 actually, I actually got hurt that second game. I think Moses Moody fell on my leg, so at that point I’m a little hobbled. I still got to chase him because, you know, Steph is nonstop moving. So, it’s a tough task, people don’t realize it’s a tough task being the guy that’s got to chase somebody around all game.”
From beating the No. 2 seed and now facing the then defending champions, Vanderbilt knew it was not going to be easy to eliminate the Warriors:
“Shit, just find a way to win. We knew they were the defending champs, we knew this is the series that everybody wanted to see because Bron, Steph, Warriors, Lakers. They’re two of the biggest fanbases, so we were just trying to find a way to win. We were just trying to find a way, and if we went in there and stole one of the first two games, we knew we’d be in good shape. That was our mindset at least, steal one of the games away and come back home and take care of business.”
The Western Conference is never easy and won’t be getting any easier this upcoming season, but to knock off the No. 2 seed and the defending champions at the time was impressive, even if it didn’t result in a championship for L.A.
Vanderbilt was key in the first two rounds with his defense and will be an integral part of this upcoming season if the Lakers want to win No. 18.
Klay Thompson gives Lakers credit for beating Warriors in 2023 NBA postseason
The Warriors’ motion offense is hard to guard with the constant movement and screens on and off the ball. Curry and Klay Thompson are still one of the deadliest backcourts with their shooting and the Lakers had to make sure their defense was right. In a competitive six game series, Thompson gave the Lakers credit for beating them in the second round.
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