THT backs down the defense vs. Washington

Lakers vs. Wizards, Three Things to Know: Feb. 22, 2021

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (22-9) look to snap a rare 2-game losing streak, their second in 2020-21, with the Washington Wizards (10-17) in town. Tip is at 7:00 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know in advance of the matchup:

Coach Frank Vogel clarified on Saturday evening that the Lakers would be without Anthony Davis for about four weeks, and Dennis Schroder for at least two more games, including Monday’s against the Wizards. In their Thursday loss to Brooklyn, Vogel didn’t find out about Schroder’s absence due to health and safety protocols until one hour before tip, meaning he was a big part of the game plan. Against Miami on Saturday, the Lakers had plenty of time to plan for the new rotation, if limited time on the floor to execute. In LeBron’s minutes, L.A. played well enough to win, as James was a team-best +11, but when he sat, they mostly struggled. Every bench player was at -5 or worse without a true playmaker on the floor.

In the second half, things did start to get better for the Lakers, as they found a way to get Montrezl Harrell the basketball inside, towards his 7 for 12 FG’s and 18 total points. They were starting to figure out some sets that produced open shots despite the absence of their No. 2 and 3 playmakers. And yet, they’ll need some more offense from reserve guards Alex Caruso (0 for 3 FG’s) and Talen Horton-Tucker (five points) against Washington. One additional option Vogel has is to use Quinn Cook in screen/roll situations with Harrell, though that could impact L.A. on the defensive end.

At 6-17, the Wizards were right there with Detroit and Minnesota for the NBA’s worst record last week. But since then, they’ve won four straight games, beating Boston (104-91), Houston (131-119), Denver (130-128) and Portland (118-111). They’ve found a nice rhythm on offense with All-Star starter Bradley Beal scoring at least 35 points in three of those four games, and Davis Bertans scoring 35 in the other, when he hit 9 of 11 3’s. Russell Westbrook has led Washington in rebounds and assists in each of the four wins, even while continuing to struggle with his shot, hitting over 40% in only the most recent game (11 of 17 at Portland).

The Wizards remain vulnerable on the defensive end, especially in the starting lineup, where they’ve gone with Rui Hachimura and former Lakers draft pick Mo Wagner, with traditional centers Alex Len and Robin Lopez coming in off the bench. They rank 27th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, and the Lakers will be looking to rebound from a dry spell on offense of late.

The Wizards want to get out and run, as witnessed by their league-fastest pace of 104.4 possessions, compared to a Lakers team that ranks only 24th in pace (98.86), an area to watch on Monday. While the Lakers can certainly play well in a fast-paced game, they’re also capable of winning more of a half court contest, thanks primarily to the skills of LeBron James. Washington is less capable of winning when things slow down, due to their lack of half court defense, an area that L.A. will look to expose. Indeed, their lack of rim protection shows up in their NBA-worst 3.7 blocks per game. In the last three games without Davis, L.A. have managed to rally around the flag defensively and block 6.0 shots per game, just off their season average of 6.1.

Washington also ranks 2nd to last in 3-point percentage (33.9%), compared to L.A.’s 21st (35.5%), and they attempt the 19th most at 33.7, with L.A. at 30.5. The Lakers actually got 45 3’s up against Miami, and were hitting a decent percentage until the fourth quarter. In that final period, they made only 1 of 13 triples, which brought their percentage down to 28.9% for the game. Another major difference between Washington and the Lakers comes at the free throw line, where the Wizards allow a league-high 26.9 from their opponent, compared to L.A.’s 18.6, the lowest in the NBA.


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