Lakers Look to Avoid Season Sweep Against Jazz
By: Michael Taylor
The last time the Lakers faced the Jazz, Gordon Hayward abused LA’s defense en route to dropping 31 points on 10-17 shooting. Los Angeles did a particularly bad job of putting a hand in Hayward’s only 5 of his shots were contested. While Hayward is a star and still likely to get his, Los Angeles can certainly make his life a bit harder.
Fighting Over Screens
Why it Worked: This was a play drawn up to establish a rhythm early on for Hayward, and it worked beautifully. Derrick Favors hangs up top, while Rodney Hood runs a high ball screen with Rudy Gobert. Mozgov doesn’t step out because Gobert is not a shooting threat. As soon as Hood comes off the screen, Hayward slips a screen and shoots up through the “gate” made by Gobert and Favors. Deng gets faked out by Hayward’s hesitation and is too slow to recognize that his man is about is about to have an open three. As soon as Hayward runs through, Gobert and Favors close the “gate”, giving Hayward the easy look.
How to Adjust: Of Hayward’s 17 shots, 9 of them were off screens (with or without ball) to free him up. This led to him in large part to hitting 8-12 uncontested shots. Containing Hayward limits a lot of what Utah can do offensively. Off ball, whoever is guarding Hayward (presumably Deng), will need to remain locked onto him and fight over screens to the best of his ability, limiting his ability to catch and shoot, and force him into more isolation plays. On ball screens, Hayward’s defender should fight over the screen, and the screener’s man should hedge hard to force Hayward to dribble out or pass to a teammate. While, hard hedges are susceptible to slips, Utah’s bigs aren’t lethal off the dribble, and can be controlled by tagging appropriately.
Rudy Gobert is essentially the real-life Mr. Fantastic with an absolutely freakish 9’9 standing reach. In three games against the Lakers this year he’s blocked 11 shots, and altered many more.
Why it Worked: D’Angelo Russell does a good job using Shelvin Mack’s aggressiveness against him, by stopping on a dime and spinning opposite of Mack’s momentum. As soon as he gets a step on Mack, Russell cuts him off giving him a two-on-one opportunity with Mozgov against Gobert. Gobert is caught off balance, and doesn’t jump, but still alters the shot. Gobert is such a strong shot blocker, he gets into the head of opposing players even when he cannot block the shot.
How to Adjust: The Lakers should go small whenever Gobert is on the floor to drag him out of the paint, and force him to guard outside. If he’s defending the ball, he’s in no position as a help defender, thus allowing easier shots at the basket. Going small gives the Lakers the option to use Deng at the 4, and Randle/Nance at the 5. However, this is a risky proposition, since it intensifies the issues surrounding defensive rebounding. Gobert is too tall and too long for Randle to consistently box out. Los Angeles will need a collective effort from at least 4 players to crash the glass and limit Gobert’s offensive rebounding prowess as much as possible.
Notes: Since he missed the last two games, it’s easy to forget just how much George Hill gashed the Lakers’ defense in their first outing on October 28th. Hill scored 10 of his 23 points off layups, while also getting to the line. Many times, Russell decided to go over the screen (potentially to weak it), and this allowed Hill room to accelerate against the flat-footed Mozgov.