Lakers’ offense gets a much-needed jolt with a lineup change

D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers, (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers, (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Before their game against the Phoenix Suns, Coach Darvin Ham teased an adjustment with the starting unit of the Los Angeles Lakers. Having played solidly the past few games, Austin Reaves got the nod to replace Malik Beasley in the starting five.

It definitely had an instant impact as the Lakers bagged their second straight win versus the Phoenix Suns. The improvement most noticeable the whole game was the offense, where they had an offensive rating of 118.4. A team that badly needed to have some offensive juice, could be the start of something to build on, and a healthy LeBron James might just be the missing piece to contend with the best of them.

The change quickly paid dividends as Reaves spearheaded a strong first half, despite limited outputs from Anthony Davis and D’Angelo Russell. He went on to finish the game with 25 points and a career-high 11 assists.

The new adjustment paid big dividends for the Lakers.

Although there has been a lot said about how the 24-year-old player garners his scoring from the free-throw line, we can’t deny the way he gets downhill is undeniable. Some perspective to peep at is Reaves currently shoots 78.7% this season in the restricted area, per NBA Advanced Stats.

Also fun to track this wrinkle as to where Davis and Reaves go into a dribble handoff (DHO) action that resulted in baskets. Both of these also transpired in an empty side and spaced out at the top, meaning all three players cleared out for them to have enough wiggle room.

Come the second half, it was time for Russell and Davis to pick the cudgels for the Lakers. Even getting outscored 33-29 by the Suns in the third quarter, the process offensively was good overall.

For the comeback Laker, the insertion of Reaves with the starting five enabled him to play off the ball more. He doesn’t have to do all the creation, which has unlocked his ability to cut and be an efficient driver.

Although having his most proficient year shooting the basketball, his shot selection of Russell may somehow be considered questionable. According to NBA Advanced Stats, even with a very tight defense (0-2 feet is the closest defender) on him, he scores at a 54.5% rate from the field, and with tight defenses (2-4 feet is the closest defender) at 48.1%.

That only means Russell is a terrific shotmaker, but this couldn’t be sustainable when defenses key in on him come playoff time.

But against the Suns, Russell had another fairly good game scoring, as he finished with 26 points on an 80.8 true shooting percentage (TS%). And just like his quick and decisiveness shown earlier with the drives, the chunk of Russell’s long balls came off great ball movement. In short, they were rhythm shots.

This time, we focus on Anthony Davis. We know how he can be so dominant with his sheer size, but there has been reluctance on his end to demand the ball. It was again emphasized during the game.

It took Davis one half of basketball to get going and reach the top score for the Lakers with 27 points and nine rebounds after only scoring seven in the first half. Also worth noting is that it’s a bounce-back game from a 15-point outing in their previous assignment.

With DeAndre Ayton out for the game, there should be no reason that Davis cannot dominate (no offense to Bismack Biyombo, lol). One of the Brow’s biggest issues is that he settles for outside jumpers instead of going hard to the rim.

Having said that, it’s fair to point out that he is shooting more in the paint and has fully embraced the center position this season. When he sets his mind like that, good things happen, which delights every Laker fan.

Davis made a low post-entry in this particular play. It appears that this is the best position for him to receive the ball, taking into account the risk of him attacking downhill or attracting double teams and putting the opposition in rotation. The result speaks for itself, so this is something good to keep an eye on.

Another option is just to let Davis cook in isolation situations because he’s that good. Let’s stop overthinking.

Next. Austin Reaves continues to shine for Lakers. dark

The beauty of this mess in the Western Conference is that every team in the middle of the pack still controls their own destiny. That could be said for the Lakers, and they might have just figured out a blend which can propel them to rack up wins as the regular season ends.