Lakers revert to Game 1 lineup in win vs. OKC, plan to stick with it

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Tuesday, January 16, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- TheLakershit the halfway mark of the season with a 112-105 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, and in Game No. 41, coach Darvin Ham went back to the starting lineup he opened the season with.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis were flanked by Austin Reaves,D'Angelo Russelland Taurean Prince to start the game against Oklahoma City, one of 11 different starting units that Ham has implemented this season and one he plans to continue to trot out.

"Just wanted to put as much skill and shot-making on the floor around our two captains," Ham explained after the game. "And those five, they've been pretty much our most consistent guys throughout the season thus far. So just put them together.

"For the foreseeable future, that's going to be our lineup, barring any type of injury."

The win brought the Lakers to 20-21 on the season and 3-3 with that starting group. Last month, with his team stuck in a post in-season tournament rut, Ham shuffled the lineup to prioritize defense -- surrounding James and Davis with Prince, Cam Reddish and Jarred Vanderbilt to tip off L.A.'s last game against the Thunder, a 129-120 win on Dec. 23.

Monday's shift -- prompted in part by Reddish's sore left knee that could sideline him for several more games, sources told ESPN -- swung the pendulum back to offense.

"I think we can score," Davis said of the five-man unit. "I think for us it's just on the defensive end. Are we able to play defense how we did tonight? ... I think the defense is what's going to separate us and get us more wins."

L.A. held the Thunder (27-12) to 41.7% shooting from the field and 30.6% from 3 while amassing 7 steals and 9 blocks as a team.

One area that hurt the Lakers was the glass: OKC grabbed 13 offensive rebounds, outscoring L.A. 21-9 in second-chance points.

James, who notched 25 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, said that this lineup will need to gang rebound so that Davis, who had 27 points and 15 rebounds, doesn't have to do it all himself.

"Offensively we want to share the ball, not turn the ball over, AD's always our focus offensively, getting him going early and often," James said. "And then defensively, we have to be on a string to help one another. And we have to help AD rebound. And when we do that, you know, we can be a pretty good five-man lineup."

And just how good they actually are will inform the franchise as to what direction it will go as the Feb. 8 trade deadline approaches.

"People talk about trades and this and that. No one's sugarcoating anything. You have an opportunity to get better, you're going take advantage of it," Ham said. "But that said, what we have in that locker room, we just need to buckle down, focus, take care of the details. We have more than enough in that locker room to make some things happen."

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