Lakers Notes: Russell, Game 4, Strategy, Injuries

For all the adjustments Lakers coach Darvin Ham has made in the playoffs, he has remained committed to keeping D’Angelo Russell in his starting lineup, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Russell has been a starter since he was acquired from the Timberwolves in February, and Ham indicated that he’s likely to remain in that role even though he hasn’t played well in the first three games against Denver.

“Sometimes the greatest adjustment is just to play better,” Ham said at Sunday’s practice. “Play harder. Play better. Sometimes that’s the most key adjustment. It’s funny, (how) it’s almost becoming cliché. (People say), ‘What’s your adjustments, adjustments, adjustments?’ Sometimes you go in there, and you take a long, hard look at the film to clean up what you need to clean up, and you try to do what you’re doing better.”

Russell is averaging 7.0 PPG in the Western Conference Finals while shooting 29.6% from the field and 14.3% from three-point range. The Nuggets are also targeting him on defense to get easy scoring opportunities. While a recent report indicated the Lakers are concerned about the possible long-term effects of taking away Russell’s starting job, Ham said he still believes in his point guard, who was effective in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

“We know he can make those shots,” Ham said. “So the biggest thing is not to get depressed, not to get down, continue to be aggressive, continue to be assertive, and eventually that ball will go in.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Facing the nearly impossible task of winning a playoff series after falling behind 3-0, the Lakers have narrowed their focus to just getting a victory Monday night, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Historically, NBA teams with that deficit are 0-149, but Ham doesn’t want his players to believe the situation is hopeless. “We’re alive, man. The series is not over,” he said. “… The only thing we have to do is just focus on one game. We don’t have to be overwhelmed about the outside noise or the overall series. We just have to worry about one game, what’s exactly in front of us.”
  • The Lakers may want to use Jarred Vanderbilt or another tall defender to slow down Jamal Murray, who has strung together two 37-point games, suggests Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Zillgitt offers a few other strategy recommendations, including larger roles in the offense for LeBron James and Austin Reaves.
  • James (right foot stress injury) and Anthony Davis (right foot soreness) are the only names on the Lakers’ injury report for Game 4 and they’re both listed as probable, Turner tweets.
View Comments (22)