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Lakers’ Frank Vogel explains why Austin Reaves played in the fourth quarter vs. Suns

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With the Los Angeles Lakers trailing by 32 points at one point in the third quarter against the Phoenix Suns, head coach Frank Vogel decided to insert Austin Reaves into the game.

The undrafted rookie played the entire fourth quarter and played a key role in Los Angeles’ comeback effort. The Lakers outscored Phoenix 38-21 in that quarter, and though Phoenix didn’t play with the same intensity as it did in the first three quarters, the fundamentals of the Lakers’ system shined.

Vogel ran a faster lineup with Reaves, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Anthony Davis — sometimes with Anthony and James as the two big men — and Reaves put up eight points on 3-of-4 shooting (2-of-3 from deep) and held his own on defense by not allowing easy baskets.

His effort and energy stood out, and Vogel discussed after the game why he made the switch to give the 23-year-old guard his first regular-season minutes.

“It’s just, we’re learning about our team. We gave some of the other wings a first chance,” Vogel said. “We weren’t getting much done as a group in the first three quarters, and as a coach, when you’re down big, you try to change the game. It was a small lineup, a different guy at the wing, and Austin came in and played really well.”

The Lakers have unsurprisingly continued to struggle on offense and contain the perimeter on defense, but Reaves has impressed with his catch-and-shoot ability and keeping players in front of him on defense, along with making the right rotations.

It’ll be interesting to see if Vogel plays Reaves earlier in the game against the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday. It might be difficult not to do if he keeps performing in his role.

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