Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni used his sixth different starting lineup on Tuesday night in the team’s ninth game, finding a combination to beat the New Orleans Pelicans, 116-95.
The original plan was to regularly use two different starting lineups with Steve Nash sitting on the second night of back-to-back games. Steve Blake would slide over from shooting to point guard with Jodie Meeks bumped up into the starting unit.
With Nash out at least two weeks with back issues, Blake and Meeks should be the regular starting duo in the back court -- at least until Kobe Bryant (Achilles) and Nash return.
Pau Gasol and Blake have been the only constants in the Lakers’ starting unit. Like Blake, Gasol has started at different positions -- center and power forward.
On Tuesday, Jordan Hill got his first start of the season, scoring a career-high 21 points in the Lakers’ victory. The front-court starters have also included Chris Kaman (three games) and Shawne Williams (five).
Technically, Gasol was listed as the team’s center on Tuesday with Hill at forward, although that may be an arbitrary designation.
The Lakers have had three different starting small forwards with Wesley Johnson getting his first chance on Tuesday. Nick Young started six games; Xavier Henry two.
“One of the reasons our defense wasn’t good, we weren’t long,” D’Antoni said after the win over the Pelicans. “I thought against Minnesota, we were in people’s faces but they kept shooting over us. Having [Johnson] in there with his length and athleticism, rebounding ... I think it helps.”
The Timberwolves blew out the Lakers on Sunday, 113-90, scoring 47 points in the first quarter alone.
The Lakers are currently 4-5 on the season, which isn’t a bad start considering the team has had one of the league’s heavier schedules while playing without their superstar, Bryant.
D’Antoni said he intends to stick with Tuesday’s starting lineup (in the absence of Bryant and Nash), as long as that group continues to play well together.