Lakers seek to keep their ‘cadence’ while awaiting start of conference finals

Lakers' LeBron James drives to the basket against the Houston Rockets.
The Lakers’ LeBron James drives against the Houston Rockets during Game 5 on Saturday night. The Lakers rolled to a 119-96 win that clinched the series.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Lakers will attempt to keep their rhythm, or their “cadence,” as coach Frank Vogel called it, while they take five days off before playing in the Western Conference finals opener.

They have been down this road before — when the Lakers dispatched the Portland Trail Blazers in five games in the first round and had to wait six days before playing the Houston Rockets, who beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in a seven-game series. The Lakers lost Game 1 to the Rockets but won the next four in the second round.

Now the Lakers await the winner of the tense series between the Clippers and Denver Nuggets that’s tied at 3-3 and will be determined Tuesday night.

The Lakers practiced Monday, will have Tuesday off, and then will practice Wednesday and Thursday to prepare for the opponent they will face beginning Friday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

“It’s definitely a challenge, there’s no doubt about that,” Vogel said during a videoconference Monday. “And the message with our group today is: You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. And we not only want to stay sharp, we want to get better every time we step on the basketball court. So that’s got to be your focus. But at the same time, you’re just trying to get in enough work to stay in rhythm, keep your conditioning, but still take advantage of rest.

“We’re going to have a plan this week of trying to stay in the cadence of playing every other day, so we had a live practice today, off tomorrow, live practice Wednesday, and then Thursday’s practice will be a no-contact practice. Just preparation-oriented. So just trying to keep that cadence and, again, manage the time off to stay in shape and stay in rhythm.”

When Rajon Rondo’s brother, William, waved goodbye to an irate Russell Westbrook and the Rockets, it could be a sign of things to come in Houston.


The Clippers took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series over the Nuggets, and it looked as if a showdown between the two Los Angeles teams was certain. But then the Nuggets overcame big deficits to win two in a row and the Lakers decided to just work on their own game.

“Whoever wins, wins. And we’ll be ready for both,” Vogel said. “Obviously, when there was a 3-1 lead, you start looking at … at least my assistant coaches started looking at the Clippers more, preparing for them because they were closer to the finish line. But obviously we’re preparing for both teams the whole way through. And you know, I don’t get frustrated. Whenever the results come in, we’ll be ready to go.”

Lakers guard Alex Caruso used Sunday to take a mental break — playing golf with his parents as well as watching some NFL games and Game 6 between the Clippers and Nuggets.

Caruso said he has been impressed with the “fight that Denver shows.”

While the Lakers wait for find out if the Clippers or Nuggets will face them in the conference final, players are ready to relax and play some golf.

“[The Nuggets] were down 3-1 the first series, and everybody counted ‘em out. They won three in a row. They were down 3-1 in this series, [and] I think everybody counted ‘em out and here they are again, forcing a Game 7,” Caruso said during a videoconference. “It’ll be interesting to see how they respond, but it’s a big emotional as well as physical task to come back from that many games down. I’m looking forward to it.

“Obviously, whoever we play is going to be a good team playing well because they’ve had to beat some good people to get there. As far as us being ready, I think we were a little better in the first game against Houston than we were against Portland, and hopefully that will be the same step, take a little step further of coming out.”