After lineup instability, Lakers stay with small-ball group – Press Enterprise

LOS ANGELES — An event that was scheduled for 68 games finally happened Monday night as the Lakers played their small-ball starting lineup for the sixth time of the season.

That might seem like an unremarkable marker, and for every other NBA team it probably is, too. But for the Lakers, their LeBron James-centered lineup with Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, Austin Reaves and Stanley Johnson is now the most-played starting lineup of the season.

It’s a nod to the ugly injury situation that has dogged the side alongside their inconsistent game throughout the year. Coach Frank Vogel has spent most of the season pulling the strings, never starting a group more than five times before Monday against the Toronto Raptors. The Lakers have played 32 different starting lineups this season.

After Anthony Davis was postponed, the Lakers went in 7-6 Monday night with James playing at center. Although it hasn’t resulted in as many wins as the team was hoping for lately, the 37-year-old seemed to think sticking with a group was a better option than investigating further.

“It’s obviously a small dose, but I mean we’ve had so many different lineup changes this year and trying to figure out which ones work best, this was probably the only one that was over .500,” he said. “So we tried to stick with it. We tried to get some consistency with some lineups.”

It was not certain if the group would get together for Monday’s game. It was widely believed within the team that James, who was struggling with left knee pain, could take the second night of a straight game after playing 31 points against Phoenix for 30 minutes. But after warming up, James went for what Vogel called a “real game decision.”

The Lakers and James himself have admitted the knee – which caused him to miss six games in the past two months – still bothers James even as he has continued his assault on the NBA’s top scorers. The Lakers have a back-to-back road later this week, visiting Toronto on Friday before flying to Washington for a game on Saturday.

James said last week that the team’s poor place in the standings didn’t motivate him to come through an injury he would normally sit for.


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