The mainstream NBA media frustrates me. A lot.
If you watched the game and (like me) weren't smart enough to put it on "mute" you'd have heard 48 minutes of Doug Collins and the other guy talking about how the Rockets are playing "the perfect game, but the Lakers are only trailing by 3" blah blah blah. In actuality, the Rockets were far from perfect, and the Lakers were not nearly as bad as Phil Jackson would want you to think.
The Rockets committed 16 turnovers. Most of them of the "careless pass" variety. To borrow from the tennis lexicography, these were "unforced" turnovers. Though Kyle Lowry starting a fast break in the backcourt, running into Ariza and giving the ball back was a nice one, too. Granted, the Rockets have had problems with turnovers all year, so this is neither new nor surprising. But it's naive to think the Rockets cannot find a way to take care of the ball in Game 2 (and at home in Games 3 and 4). Turnovers - like drugs - are bad, Von. Mmmkay?
In contrast, the Lakers committed 13 turnovers themselves. Not that Los Angeles is happy with that number, but a lot of those turnovers were because the Lakers tried to force the action and the Rockets would not let them into the painted area. There's good reason to believe that the Lakers might improve on this number, but not by a very large margin. The Rockets are not going to change to a matador defense anytime soon.
Also, here's some shooting stats for the Rockets: Battier 1-5 (0-4 from deep), Scola 4-9 (0-0), Von Wafer 0-2 (0-0), Brent Barry 1-3 (1-3), Even Yao Ming's 9-17 effort was not all that fantastic and he missed a handful of easy hook shots or layups at the rim. Further, the Rockets overall made all of 5 three pointers. In 18 attempts. For the regular season, the Rockets averaged over 8 made threes in just over 20 attempts a game. Translation? The Rockets can do better -- much better -- shooting the ball. L.A. is not noted for its defense. There is ample room for improvement by the Rockets here.
Once again, we cannot ignore the Lakers' shooting woes. I do not expect L.A. to go 2-18 from behind the line again. However, if Derek Fisher and Trevor Ariza are deemed to be their primary long-distance weapons, that number really isn't much of an anomaly. Fisher has lost a step and Ariza is simply not as good as he looked in the Utah series (where he made more than 50% from deep).
Further, Kobe shot 14-31. This should not be a surprise. The Rockets WANT Kobe to be a shooter and not a distributor. If Kobe focuses on getting his, then Odom gets bored, Gasol gets pouty and Bynum gets into foul trouble. This is what Shane Battier and the Rockets will call a recipe for success. It's a two-step process. (1) Make Kobe shoot the ball (no layups), and (2) Keep a hand in his face. Like this:
Meanwhile, the Rockets bench has got to contribute a bit more. Von Wafer was non-existent. Now that he realizes the Lakers (and Vujacic) are not going to let him get a 10 foot headstart like Portland did... he can adjust. And he will. Von will be a factor at some point.
Kyle Lowry, Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes played huge on defense. Lowry and Landry can be a bit more consistent on offense though. Just another area for improvement. When Landry played the Lakers in January, he was a dunking machine who went for 20+. I know he's still not 100%, but he's playing tentative. If he's able to trust his leg and play above the rim again, the Rockets immediately can counter whatever Lamar Odom can do.
Finally... and most importantly... the Lakers procured an astounding 12 offensive rebounds last night. Twelve! Most of them because the Rockets front-line got lazy and did not box out. LaMarcus Aldridge is not in this series, gang. Gasol, Odom and Bynum are going to crash the class. You absolutely must box out. And yes, I am looking at you Yao. You, too, Luis Scola. No freelancing anymore. Put a body on a man. I do not want to see the Rockets get out-rebounded in this series again. There's no reason the Rockets can't win the rebounding battle each game.
All that said, the Lakers are going to play much, much better on Wednesday. Be ready for the emotional run. Once that subsides (and it will as the Laker trademark is "lethargy" after building a lead), attack. And then attack some more. At no point should Aaron Brooks think that anyone on the Laker roster can stay in front of him or stop him from going to the basket and wreaking havoc with the Laker defense.
(I know there is one person who I have intentionally not called out. That would be Ron Artest. Ummm, Crazy Pills... you just keep doin' your thing. No need for you to solicit any suggestions from the peanut gallery. Love the new 'do, btw.)