While Anthony Davis having one of his worst games as a Laker did not help the team’s cause against the Blazers, big man Montrezl Harrell drew some of the blame after getting exposed on the defensive end late.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor headlined those pointing out the defensive lapses by Harrell, putting together a short highlight reel of the Blazers getting easy buckets on pick-and-rolls.
“The Blazers relentlessly attacked Montrezl Harrell late in the fourth to hold onto their lead over the Lakers. It didn’t go well for Trez,” he wrote with the clip attached.
The Blazers relentlessly attacked Montrezl Harrell late in the fourth to hold onto their lead over the Lakers.
It didn't go well for Trez… pic.twitter.com/3WoDqS2i36
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) December 29, 2020
“Portland’s firepower obviously makes them a tough cover for any team. But Montrezl Harrell’s defense will be something to monitor all season,” O’Connor added. “He has some exploitable flaws, as we saw. So does Gasol close more games? Will AD play more at the 5 like he did after Harrell got pulled?”
Harrell finished the game a minus-20 in 27 minutes off the bench, second only the Kyle Kuzma, who was minus-23. All of the Lakers starters were positive in plus-minus, save for LeBron James, who finished at 0. Lakers had coach Frank Vogel defended the decision to stick with Harrell late.
“We’re a new team, so we’re going to continue to look at different things with Marc or Trezz finishing, or we have the ability to slide AD over to the five,” Vogel said, per Silver Screen and Roll. “I hadn’t had Keef in the game because I wanted to have a ballhandler in there with ‘Bron during that stretch that Keef normally plays, and he would have been cold if I’d put him in late. I like the lineup that we had out there, but we just weren’t able to get the job done.”
Montrezl Harrell’s Defense a Known Issues
For all the energy Harrell can provide on the offensive end, his defense has been a topic of conversation. It became apparent in the playoffs last season with the Clippers when he was nearly unplayable against the Nuggets and multi-talented center Nikola Jokic.
Harrell, who won the Sixth Man of the Year award, saw a significant dip in his minutes in the Western Conference Semifinals, which the Nuggets went on to win, coming back from a 3-1 deficit.
ESPN analyst Jalen Rose called out Harrell for being a liability after he signed with the Lakers, saying it hurt his value on the open market.
“He ruined some of his value by playing poorly in the playoffs. You’re going to see a lot of people get big deals this offseason,” Rose said. “The reason why he didn’t get a long-term deal is because he was a defensive liability that the Joker [Nikola Jokic] continued to take advantage of, to the point that they had to take him out of the game.”
Lakers Missing Shot-Blocking Centers
The Lakers traded JaVale McGee to Cleveland and let Dwight Howard walk in free agency this offseason. While the duo didn’t pile up offensive numbers, they provided a big defensive presence with their shot-blocking abilities. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel admitted that the defensive mentality would be different for his squad this year without those two back there.
“Mark and Trezz are more position defenders, charge takers,” Vogel told reporters earlier this month. “I don’t think our defensive efficiency needs to be any less. It just might not show up in that blocks area.
“There could be times we put Trez on other team’s 4s and let A.D. guard the roller,” Vogel added. “Obviously offensively, Marc is going to be spaced around the 3-point line a lot more than Trez being the dunker and rolling to the basket. They are different, we did have a little bit of a similar role for Dwight and JaVale last year, but this is a new team and we’ll customize based on our personnel.”
The Lakers fell to 2-2, but still have time to figure things out. LA’s next test is against San Antonio on Wednesday.