How the Blazers defensively exploited the Montreal Harrell, and reminded the Lakers of their true identity

LeBron James-Anthony Davis Lakers won their first 59 games in which they held the lead after three quarters. If the championship team of last season was headed after three quarters, the game was functionally over. Not once did he take such a lead, and this remarkable reliability came mainly from his defensive excellence.

No team allowed fewer points per 100 in the fourth quarter (100.8) than the Lakers last season. They were fourth in the clutch defense ahead of the Orlando bubble, and clutch settings improved when the playoffs arrived. It was almost impossible to beat the Lakers late in games because it was almost impossible to score the Lakers late in games.

On Monday, the Portland Trail Blazers pulled off a 59-game winning streak with a third-quarter lead. After falling 85–84 over the course of three quarters, they outscored the Lockers 31-22 in the fourth, never allowing last year’s roster with a 115-107 win to outlast Staples Center. But Montreal Harley was not included in last year’s roster.

The Lakers took a calculated risk on Harel. In paying him only the mid-level exception, they managed to secure a player who, in a vacuum, was worth far more than they should have had access to. They took him away from rival Clippers, and assuming that he believed Mark Gasol was coming to a minimum, they knew that he had a more traditional center to balance his shortcomings. Harrell largely played well in his first three matches as a lacquer. His scoring, offensive rebounding and energy are real assets.

But those assets are best pitched against a bench lineup he can physically fortify. Asking him to play at crunch time puts a target on his back. This was especially true on Monday, as Frank Vogel left him on the floor for more than 15 minutes of consecutive playing time. By the time Portland realized how exploitative he was on defense, he was too tired to fight back. That’s why, in essence, the game is lost. The Blazers hunt Harrell to extinction on Pick and Roll.

Originally, the Lakers decided on an aggressive pick-and-roll coverage against Damian Lillard to prevent them from dribbling in easy 3-pointers. This type of trapping works only when the big defender immediately removes the ball-handler from the screen, making it very annoying and allowing the rest of the defense to take place and perhaps force that ball-handler to flourish. is. Instead, Harel catches Knapp, not being so strict on Lillard that he can slow him down or leave him far enough away to do anything about the Annes connector. He was in the middle of the play, yet it did not affect the end of it.

The next time Portland makes a pick-and-roll, but Harel is a bit more circumspect, but still doesn’t get nearly enough on CJ McCullum. He leaves enough airspace for McCullum to bounce the ball into Zulf Nurik’s pocket. LeBron James turns around, but he is not yet big enough to face Nurkic.

After a few plays, Portland catches him taking a nap. He does not blitz or drop. He freezes, and by the time he realizes that Nurkic’s screen is about to take Kentavius ​​Caldwell-Pope out of the play, it is too late for him to return to McCullum.

As things progressed, the Lakers abandoned the blitting scheme to simplify things for Harel. This also did not work. When he returns to this play, his only resistance to Lillard’s drive is a lazy swat resulting in a foul.

Next time down from the floor, Portland saves the dagger. Another Lillard-Nurkic pick-and-roll. Harel again plays drop coverage, but Nurkic does not see Leak back in the middle of the floor. Lillard threw him the ball for an easy drive and layoff.

By this point, Vogel has seen enough. He kicks Harrell out of the game and replaces him with Kyle Kuzma, but is at a loss. Portland leads with eight under two minutes to play, and the vaunted fourth-quarter Lakers defense allowed a staggering 134.8 points per 100 possessions in the final frame. Game Over. The Blazers win.

And it was a stalled victory on many levels. A healthy and engaged Anthony Davis could have better cover for Harrell on his miss. Had Harel been given a brief rest in a 16-minute stint, he could have been better able to take a more active defensive role that Vogel’s game-plan requires. It was ultimately a coaching loss, however, as Vogel did not put his player in the best possible position to succeed. He asked for an offensive-oriented sixth man to defend one of the most dangerous plays in all of basketball, and he got burned for it.

At some stage, he was probably intentional. The Lakers are four games into a 72-game slug. They have 11 players for key minutes and it is not yet clear which of them is the best together. When your biggest opponent shares your arena, there is no need to prioritize home-court advantage. Vogel’s goal is not to win every regular-season game, but to use them to prepare for the postseason. He wanted to see how Harel would react defensively in crunch time against a contender. His fourth-fourth minutes were an experiment.

But this was a failed experiment. The Lakers now see for the first time what happens when they leave their defensive identities late in the game. This is a mistake they no longer need to repeat. Harley can play a valuable role on this team. He cannot just play the specific role he was called on Monday. When it matters, either Davis or Mark Gasol should be at the center to maximize the defense that eventually made the Lakers the champion. This is why the Lakers hope they never fly again.

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