The Los Angeles Lakers defeated their two biggest threats to the NBA Title in back-to-back games because of the coaching from Frank Vogel.
The Los Angeles Lakers served notice to the rest of the NBA over the weekend with big wins over the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks and over their city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers’ wins were a reminder that they still belong among the favorites to win an NBA title and that their defense may be the key to achieving the goal.
The architect behind both wins has to be head coach Frank Vogel who came up with a plan to wear down both teams. It is no surprise the Lakers pulled out both wins by pulling away in strong defensive second-halves.
On Friday night, the Lakers outscored the Bucks 65-55 in the second half thanks to a big third quarter where the Lakers went on an 18-0 run and outscored the Bucks 39-28 in the quarter.
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During the third quarter, not a single Bucks starter was in the positive for +/- and had it not been for Donte DiVincenzo going 5 of 6 from the field and 2 of 3 from three-point land the deficit would have been was worse.
The third quarter was the highlight but the Lakers effectively bottled up the Bucks all game, holding the top-scoring team in the league (118 ppg) to just 103 points and a team who’s offensive rating is 112.7 to 92.7 for the game.
Vogel made sure to use the starters effectively in the third quarter to build the lead and used his shut down defense to close out the game. Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Avery Bradley saw significant minutes to close out the game along with starters LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Danny Green.
On Sunday Vogel had the Lakers follow a similar script against the Clippers. In the second half, the Lakers outscored Clippers 63-50 again using a strong third quarter. The Lakers turned a four-point deficit at halftime into a four-point lead going into the fourth quarter outscoring the Clippers by eight (36-28).
In the fourth, the Lakers really tightened the screws on defense, holding the Clippers to just 22 points with the Clippers only coming as close as six points with five minutes left in the game.
The Lakers would not allow the Clippers to get any closer as Vogel employed a strategy that had James or Davis covering Kawahi Leonard. Meanwhile Green, Bradley, and newcomer Markieff Morris fought to keep the other Clippers from scoring especially Paul George.
George led the Clippers with 31 points for the game, but he went 0-2 in the fourth only making two free throws for just two points to end the game.
Vogel deserves credit for getting the Los Angeles Lakers to buy in and use their defense to suffocate two of the best teams in the NBA. The Lakers showed the championship defense needed to be at the top of the NBA mountain and for that, we have Vogel to thank.