The Lakers’ big fourth-quarter turnaround on Friday started on the defensive end, where Darvin Ham made one notable change against the Suns.
Friday’s win against the Suns was another game in which the Lakers forced themselves into a situation of playing from behind throughout. It was a song and dance that was all too familiar for the team early in the season.
The difference against the Suns, though, was that the conclusion of the story was a Lakers victory. And that came after a strong push out of the gate in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 96-89 entering the frame, the Lakers ripped off the first 11 points of the quarter. And while a number of things happened in that run, it was the defense turning things up a notch that was the main catalyst.
Whether it was ending defensive possessions with rebounds or simply creating turnovers and not allowing them to get a shot off, the Lakers made their game-changing run on the back of their defense. Postgame, head coach Darvin Ham revealed the change he made defensively that woke the team up, as he said.
“We decided to blitz (defensively) with Brad (Beal) being out there by himself with no KD,” Ham said. “I thought it gave us the energy we needed. Everyone has to be alert, aware, energetic when you go to a defensive coverage like that. You have to be ready to move on pass. I thought that woke us up a little bit. We’re much, much better whenever we’re aggressive.
“Those blitzes turned into deflections and steals that turned into easy buckets. Being able to play downhill and put pressure on their defense got us to the line. A plethora of things that were positive stemmed from that coverage…Just being more aggressive. Plain and simple.”
It was Kevin Durant who went on a huge third-quarter run to push the Suns ahead. But after he checked out at the end of the period, the Lakers made Bradley Beal’s life hell as he missed a pair of shots and had a turnover during that 11-0 run.
That wasn’t the only difference in the quarter, though, as the Lakers also just, in general, played harder. It’s not specifically quantifiable but it does show itself in the lack of offensive rebounds allowed and the turnovers they created, as LeBron James pointed out in his walk-off interview on ESPN.
“I think we finally got sick of being outrebounded,” LeBron said. “We kept bodies in front of bodies. I think C-Wood did a great job of cleaning glass to start that fourth and we finally started hitting our 3-pointers and that helped us get back into the game.”
Mix a little bit of creativity in defensive scheme with a lot of “give-a-damn” and the combination is the Lakers making an important comeback for their first road win.
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