With the Lakers (3-5) trying to stem off a two-game losing streak tonight against the New Orleans Pelicans (4-3), coach Mike D’Antoni will field his sixth different starting lineup of the season by featuring Jordan Hill over Chris Kaman at power forward.
“I’m going to look at Jordan Hill and see if we can start with his energy,” D’Antoni said. “I hate to lose it off the bench. But then again right now, the blanket is a little short. We’re trying to figure out how to make the blanket a little bit longer.”
Hill has averaged 6.3 points on an efficient 62.9 percent from the field and 6.6 rebounds in only 16.1 minutes. When accounting for his limiting minutes, Hill ranks fourth in the NBA in total rebounding percentage (20.6), 20th in defensive rebounding percentage (25.4) and fourth on offensive rebounding percentage (16.1). Yet, D’Antoni had remained reluctant playing Hill more both because of his usual preference for a smaller lineup and his belief that Hill shows more energy effectively in short bursts.
“Same old same old attitude for me,” Hill said. “Keep doing the same thing I do.I’ll definitley bring energy. The coaches want to see what works out there with the lineups. We’ll go with it.”
Although Kaman has averaged 10 points on 50 percent shooting as a starter in the past three games, the Lakers’ defensive suffered noticeably in the past two games. The Lakers allowed Pelicans forward Anthony Davis to post a career-high 32 points on 12 of 18 shooting, 12 rebounds and six blocks. In the Lakers’ loss Sunday against Minnesota, Wesley Johnson struggled containing power forward Kevin Love, who posted 18 of his 25 points in the first quarter.
That represents a startling picture on the Lakers’ defense. They rank nearly last out of 30 NBA teams in several defensive categories, including 28th in total defense (106.5), 22nd in opponent field-goal percentage (46.4), 26th in opponent three-point field goal percentage (40.2) and 28th in fast-break points allowed (18.4).
What’s up with the defense?
Every game we lost, we have to play harder from the start and provide a lot of energy defensively. We have to build more trust in each other,” Hill said. “It comes in spurts. We lack sometimes a couple mental breakdowns. That definitely kills us. We have to go out there and work hard. Anytime we make a mistake, we kind of put our head down and start having more mental breakdowns after that.”
Hill also senses that focus wanes depending on the matchups. The Lakers’ three wins have come against marquee teams for different reasons, including the Clippers (cross-town rival) and Houston Rockets (Dwight Howard’s first game against the Lakers since leaving this offseason).
“When we play a team no one expects us to win against, it makes us go out and work that much harder,” Hill said. “If we play a tema we expect to win, we get lackadaisical. We have to go out and compete with them and provide the same energy. It can’t be up and down.”
With Hill now in the lineup, D’Antoni sounds hopeful that inconsistency will stop.
“He’s going to play the way he plays. Full out, full bore with energy,” D’Antoni said. “You hate to lose the spark we got. That was the best thing we had off the bench. But we have to find a way to start games too with that energy so we’ll look at it, evaluate it and hopefully this will work. Everybody has to step up. Everybody has to play harder. Everybody has to be mentally tougher.”
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