Lakers’ Rotation Takes Bad Turn for Key Offseason Pick-Up

Wesley Matthews, Lakers

Getty Wesley Matthews, Lakers

For the Lakers bench, Saturday’s win over the Celtics was a high point. The reserves scored 35 points on 16-for-28 shooting, led by the 16 points from center Montrezl Harrell, one of key offseason additions this winter.

But another key addition was notably absent from the bench group—guard Wesley Matthews, who was a healthy scratch for the first time in his Lakers career in the game. Matthews had missed three games earlier in the month with a sore Achilles’ tendon, but had no injury on Saturday.

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Matthews is averaging just 4.7 points per game this year, by far the fewest of his career. He is shooting 39.7% from the floor and 36.4% from the 3-point line. At age 34, Matthews has lost some mobility and his minutes have dipped since he returned from the injury on January 15.

In his last seven games, Matthews has shot just 4-for-16 from the 3-point line and if he not making his shots from the arc, he is not particularly useful for the Lakers. Matthews does have a history of being streaky as a shooter, including in his tenure with the Lakers. He started the season 0-for-8 from the 3-point line before going on a 17-for-33 run.

Lakers’ Reserves Had Strong Showing vs. Boston

Still, after the win over Boston, there was praise for the reserve unit of Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso. The Lakers started both the second and fourth quarters with that group on the floor alongside LeBron James.

“High-energy group, we all play with a pace and a level of energy, we play off one another,” James said after the game. “It’s a team that has multiple ball-handlers, multiple guys who can slash and shoot. It works well for us. Trez commands the paint and it works extremely well for us.”

The Lakers outscored the Celtics, 15-11, with that lineup on the floor to start the second quarter and 10-3 to start the fourth.

“I liked the energy that they had,” Laker coach Frank Vogel said. “I mean, Alex and Kuz and Talen and really Trez, all four of those guys are hard-playing dudes.”

Matthews, Morris Left Out of Lakers Rotation

The Lakers brought in Matthews with the hope that he would replace Danny Green, the much-maligned guard who was sent to the Thunder with a draft pick for Dennis Schroder.

But with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope having an outstanding season and Horton-Tucker emerging in his second season, the Lakers may not need Matthews all that much.

Big man Markieff Morris also did not crack the rotation on Saturday.

Frank Vogel Postgame Interview | Celtics vs LakersFrank Vogel discussed the tough decision for the Lakers to bench Markieff Morris and Wes Matthews in the win over the Celtics, the late heroics of Dennis Schroder and getting back on defense in a way that allowed him to stop Kemba Walker's buzzer beater after Anthony Davis turned the ball over ahead by one…2021-01-31T07:37:07Z

“These are not easy things,” Vogel said. “We just felt like we’re trying to get a lot of guys in there, play a 10-man rotation, with two guys playing 37, 38 minutes, can be difficult for guys to get rhythm. So, we just wanted to look at what a shorter rotation would look like. A couple of guys have to sacrifice—Wes and Kieff didn’t get in there.

“We asked them to be pros and the guys that did play get a little bit extra run to get a little bit extra rhythm. So I don’t know how much of a difference it made, but we were able to get the W, so we’re all happy about that.”

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