Even as the Los Angeles Lakers piled up wins in bunches this season, the big question that hung over their heads was who their third star was.
“The Los Angeles Lakers might have missed out on convincing Kawhi Leonard last summer to join LeBron James and Anthony Davis and form a ‘big three,’ but Lakers coach Frank Vogel says L.A.’s team defense is ending up having the same impact another All-NBA individual added to the mix would have had,” wrote ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
“‘That’s as powerful a weapon there is in one of these playoff runs. It’s as powerful as a superstar,’ Vogel said after L.A. beat the Houston Rockets 110-100 on Thursday to go up 3-1 in their Western Conference semifinal series. ‘If you have an elite defense, that can be your third star, so to speak.’”
After ranking third in defensive rating during the regular season, the Lakers have continued their defensive prowess during the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
On Thursday, the Lakers held the Rockets to just 100 points, and in Game 3, they allowed Houston to score only 102 points – very low point totals in the modern NBA.
The fact that the Rockets are one of the league’s deadliest teams from 3-point range makes the Lakers’ work on D even more impressive.
By stopping Houston, L.A. has been able to continually get out in transition and score in bunches, which has been another huge key in its success all season long. According to Vogel, it accentuates the point that L.A.’s defense serves as its third superstar in terms of impact.
“When you have the confidence you can go four, five, six possessions where you’re just squeezing the other team’s offense, getting stops and then with our ability to run the floor with LeBron James being the quarterback of that action and being in attack mode, we have strong belief in what we can accomplish as a group,” Vogel said.
L.A. also frustrated James Harden, normally a super efficient superstar, into a 2-of-11 shooting performance from the field.
As the old saying goes, defense wins championships, and it has put the Lakers on the brink of winning this series in dominating fashion.