The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Houston Rockets on Thursday night to take a commanding 3-1 lead. One more win and the Lakers are headed to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2010. Contrary to what some will have you believe, they are not doing it with "small ball." Let LeBron James explain. Via ESPN:
""I don't look at it as small," LeBron James said. "You've got [Davis] at 6-11, [Morris] at 6-10, I'm 6-9, Danny [Green] is 6-7, [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] is 6-6 and a half, 6-7. And we all have this wingspan, and we play hard. When you have that type of length and athleticism throughout five guys, it definitely helps. Clean glass, defend, be able to rotate, be in communication where if something breaks down you have guys that can fly around to help. It's a good lineup for us.""
As usual, LeBron is right. That lineup is not small and it is good. It features two of the best players in the world. Then you add in just about any three NBA players and baby, you've got yourself a stew.
The thing is, the Lakers can't play small ball. The only guy in their rotation who is under 6'5" is Rajon Rondo. On Thursday, they randomly turned to rookie Talen Horton-Tucker during the first half. He's 6'4", which is bigger than four of the guys in Houston's regular rotation.
No matter what position LeBron is playing, he's stronger than whoever is on the other team. Anthony Davis is center height and can play like a guard. KCP, Alex Caruso, and Danny Green are all 6'5" or 6'6", which makes them all big enough to start at center for the Rockets. Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris are both listed at 6'8", but LeBron says Morris is 6'10". They would all bump their heads inside the Rockets' facilities.
There is nothing small about any of them. They are all as big as Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo. This "small" Lakers lineup will have a decided size advantage over the Clippers, save Ivaca Zubac. Even then, it's not like he'll be able to overpower small ball center Anthony Davis.
Everyone thought that the Lakers would have to embrace their size to win in the playoffs and that's basically what they have done. While they dropped JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard from their rotation, they didn't really decide to go smaller. Just better.