Defence is Lakers’ third superstar

Defence is Lakers’ third superstar

ORLANDO • The Los Angeles Lakers might have only two National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but coach Frank Vogel believes the team’s defence makes them a superteam.

Davis recorded a double-double, James flirted with a triple-double and the Lakers parlayed a stifling defensive performance into a 110-100, wire-to-wire victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 4 of their Western Conference semi-final series on Thursday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.

The Lakers grabbed a commanding 3-1 series lead by dominating the facets of the game that fit their season-long profile: They clobbered the Rockets on the glass as Houston finished with a minus-26 rebounding margin, overwhelmed them in the paint 62-24 and torched Houston in transition.

“That’s as powerful a weapon there is in one of these play-off runs. It’s as powerful as a superstar,” Vogel said of his side’s defence. “If you have an elite defence, that can be your third star, so to speak.”

The Rockets made just four field goals in the second quarter and finished the half three-of-13 from three-point range.

“We played defence. We did a good job of defending the three,” said Davis, who paired 29 points with 12 rebounds and added five assists and two blocks.

“For the most part, we executed our game plan.”

That plan included limiting Rockets star James Harden, who entered Game 4 averaging 32 points in the series, on offence.

The Lakers trapped Houston’s star guard 17 times in the pick-and-roll and the guard finished with just 21 points on 18 per cent shooting with 10 assists. Russell Westbrook added 25 points.

“(Harden) is probably one of the best offensive players that we’ve ever seen in this league,” James said, after contributing 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

“So we’re just trying to eliminate anything that we can from him.”

Superteams – with at least three All-Star players – have won two of the last three NBA titles.

    11

    More offensive rebounds (12-1) the Los Angeles Lakers grabbed against the Houston Rockets in Game 4.

    38

    More points in the paint the Lakers notched over the Rockets.

While the Lakers failed to convince the reigning NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kawhi Leonard to join them, they could reach their first Western Conference Finals since the 2009-10 season with a Game 5 win today.

REUTERS