The Los Angeles Defenders? A Defensive Mindset Has The Lakers Back On Top of The Western Conference

For a team that has been in the gutter of the Western Conference and near the bottom of the defensive rankings for the past 5 years, it has been refreshing to watch this years Los Angeles Lakers bring a defensive mindset to the court every night.

Albeit just a small sample size of 8 games, the Lakers are statistically the leagues best defensive team and hold the leagues best record. The defensive ranking is the best it has been since 2009-2010 which also happens to be the last championship season for the purple and gold.

But what do we credit the drastic change in defensive intensity and ability? Do we credit Head Coach Frank Vogel, whose a defensive oriented coach? How about the influx of veteran defenders such as Danny Green, Avery Bradley, and Dwight Howard? Or is it simply the addition of Anthony Davis that gave Lebron James new life and purpose to play defense at a high level once again.

The answer is probably a summation of all of the above, each playing their role in making the Lakers a defensive juggernaut. I would even add in that this group takes pride in getting stops on the defensive end, refusing to be made a mockery of when competing.

That was ever so clear in the Chicago game. The young Bulls team were making a mockery of the Lakers defense through three quarters, tallying an absurd 93 points with a 13 point lead heading into the 4th. The pride of the Lakers must’ve kicked in after being embarrassed because they went on a 29-4 run over a 8 minute stretch to open the final quarter. Seeing a jarring run like that, one would assume it was on the back of James and Davis, but in fact Vogel’s two stars were on the bench. It was the bench unit who sparked the run, putting the Lakers ahead for good in their comeback win.

Head Coach Frank Vogel recounted a moment on the bench prior to the 29-4 run.

“As they were up big and we were trying to climb back in it, our guys on the bench were talking about, we’re the number one defense in the league, and when you got the number one defense in the league you can string together some stops.”- Frank Vogel

That is exactly what they did to comeback from the 17 point half-time deficit. But the defensive effort isn’t limited to just one game. It had been an every night effort for this Lakers team. For the season the Lakers have a league leading 96.5 defensive rating, while holding teams to 98.5 point per game.

Arguably their most impressive and complete defensive game came in Friday nights win in Miami. The Lakers held the Heat to just 80 points, suffocating the young standout guards Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn to a combined 17 points on 31% shooting. As a team the Heat struggled shooting the ball, just 35% from the field and 17% from deep. If the Lakers are holding their opponents to shooting percentages that abysmal, the lack of three point shooting and slow starts won’t be insurmountable because the defense will keep in every game. Just listen to coach Vogel post game.

If the lakers keep up this defensive play, the championship aspirations they have will be in reach.

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