The Los Angeles Lakers came up just short of a comeback win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the first round of the NBA playoffs on Sunday due to a number of injuries on their roster.
The pairing of Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond has yielded mixed results since they played their game first together in April, but for the most part, they’ve had success as a tandem in this series. But, as we saw in Game 4, only one of them can work independently of the other, and it’s not Drummond.
In the 19 minutes that Drummond played on Sunday, he posted an offensive rating of 87.8 and a defensive rating of 107.1. The Suns’ guards relentlessly attacked him at the rim in the third quarter, and it played a big role in the lead they were able to build going into the fourth.
Drummond didn’t play in the fourth quarter and the Lakers went on a run with Gasol at center. Obviously that wasn’t the only change that Frank Vogel made from the third to the fourth quarter, but there was a noticeable difference in how the Lakers played with Gasol on the floor on both sides of the ball.
Maybe a quarter isn’t enough for Vogel to move Gasol into the starting lineup for Game 5, but it’s definitely something that he should take note of, especially if Davis is ruled out.
Outside of LeBron James, four Lakers cracked double figures. Of those four players, only one of them shot above 40% from the field: Marc Gasol, who shot 4-6 from the field and 3-5 from 3-point range. No one outside of James scored more than 15 points.
The whole point of signing the two top vote-getters for the 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year Award, Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schröder, was to have someone to carry the load offensively when James sat or the offense just wasn’t flowing, but when the time came for those two to step up on Sunday, they didn’t make their shots or they just flat-out didn’t play. That’s a problem.
Then, there was Kyle Kuzma, who tried to be aggressive on offense but couldn’t, either because he lost the ball on his way to the basket or missed right at the basket. He ended the night shooting 4-11 from the field.
The argument can be made that James should have taken over on offense sooner than he did, but he also needs his teammates to make their shots. If they can do that, their chances of winning a game or two without Davis will go way up.