The Swaggy P-less Lakers stood no chance tonight against the Rockets and LA's former starting center as Houston wiped the floor with the undermanned Hollywood squad. The Rockets scored more points than in any other game this season on their way to a dominant victory. The rebounding battle and points in the paint disparity emphasized a predictable mismatch between a team who is now on a franchise record 8 game home losing streak and the hottest team in the NBA with a league leading 8 game overall winning streak.
Dwight Howard came out strong against his former team, scoring 7 of the rockets first 13 points in the first quarter in a tight contest early on. Dwight scored the first points of the night and got a couple of nice blocks and a nice dunk off of an offensive board. The Lakers balanced scoring early on kept them in the game without any particular player going too nuts on the offensive end, but Houston was dominating the boards 20-5, even Dmo was getting in on the rebounding party against a dilapidated Laker frontcourt.
Houston was simply outhustling the Lakers in most respects. They were outrunning them, out-rebounding them and generating live-ball turnovers by the bunch to generate fastbreaks.
Chandler Parsons in particular had an impressive streth, getting a coast to coast steal in the passing lane leading to a score right after nailing a three pointer on the previous possession, helping extend the lead and closing out the first quarter on a 9-0 run.
In the second quarter, Wesley Johnson and Kendall Marshall helped drive the Lakers offense to reduce the lead to a more manageable six before Donatas Motiejunas nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key followed by a tip-in by Asik on the next possession. The Lakers did not do themselves many favors, turning the ball over eleven times before the second quarter was halfway over with, giving Houston's offense additional looks at a rim that they were already aggressively rebounding off of to begin with.
Despite Dwight's early domination on the offensive end, James Harden led the team in scoring by halftime with 15 points along with 6 assists, also a team high at the time. Parsons helped push the pace and put points on the board. Donatas Motiejunas had a great outing in particular in the first half off the bench, scoring 7 points to go with 4 boards, 2 steals, and a block going into halftime.
Despite the Rockets sustaining their double digit lead, the gameplay on both sides was rather sloppy and the crowd was treated to a helter-skelter up and down the court. Both teams collected a total of 21 turnovers in the first half (HOU 8, LAL 13).
Howard closed the half with a double-double, 14 points and 10 rebounds, to go along with 3 blocks and two steals in one of the more physically dominant and imposing first halves he has had this season. He ate everything up near the rim and truly expressed, in real time, the disparity we all knew existed between the Dwight Howard the Lakers lost and the Chris Kaman that they replaced him with. Kaman ended the half with 4 points on 2 of 9 shooting, 2 rebounds, and facial from Dwight Howard on the block, several blocked shots, and a flagrant foul on James Harden on a fastbreak - also, a turnover.
The highlight of the half for the Lakers had to have been the beautiful alley-oop layup from Kendall Marshall to Wesley Johnson (aka the Lakers' entire offense). One thing that I did start to relize as I was watching the game was how truly impressive of a passer Kendall Marshall really is. The D'Antoni offense certainly lends itself towards better point guard play, but Marshall had some authentically skillful looks to his teammates.
The rebounding battle got even more lopsided by halftime, ballooning to 34-13 in favor of the Rockets. Houston led in points in the paint by an even more ridiculous 42-16 margin. Truly was the story of the evening, which made the Laker tears all the sweeter.
Near the end of the half, the Lakers defense was collapsing and the Rockets were nailing their three pointers and pushing the ball when LA simply could not get back fast enough on defense, pushing the score to 64-43 at the break. The Rockets closed the second quarter on a 12-0 run (21-0 runs to close out both first half quarters).
Marshall sparked the Laker offense to begin the second half, responded to promptly by a Beverley 3-pointer. The LA jumpshots kept coming and the defensive rebounds kept adding up for Houston. The turnovers being committed were even worse looking than in the first half. One of them featured Kendall Marshall throwing the ball directly to James Harden (I still uphold my general feeling about his passing ability, tonight was just not any Laker's night tonight).
Howard could very audibly be heard repeating the "Howard sucks" chant after plays when the crowds volume spiked after Dwight touched the ball. He did so right before communicating to James Harden to toss him a lob on the other end that resulted in a dunk that was, at this point, routine.
Halfway through the third quarter the game was essentially over. The lead erupted to nearly thirty and Los Angeles was simply not able to generate any kind of offensive rhythm; and when they were able to, they often turned the ball over and let Houston retake momentum.
Although both teams allowed the other to drill an excessive number of long range bombs as the third quarter progressed, The Rockets coasted to victory that will set the tone for the start of what some refer to as the real start of the NBA season after the all-star break.
By then end of the game, every Houston starter scored in double figures. Dwight finished with with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Harden sneakily finished with a vintage line of 29 points, 6 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals. He was fluidly establishing our offensive game and did exactly what we pay him to do. Parsons also had a solid, balanced line of 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists, and 2 steals. Lin did not have a particularly productive night, but the blowout created a situation where his best was not required when he was on the court and the score didn't warrant more than 20 minutes of play this tonight.
The All-Star break does not seem to have caused any accumulation of rust on a Houston team that is still on the longest active winning streak in the NBA at 8 games. This upcoming road trip will test Houston's resiliency and provide the potential to push our streak into double digits. We already have one of the best records we have had in recent memory to this point in a season and are starting to really rack up the W's on our way to (hopefully) homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
Next up, Mark Jackson's Warriors - a matchup the benefit greatly from the rest starters earned this evening. I would love to be able to watch a barn burner with a side of smack talk and chippy play like we've seen in recent history between these two teams.
Great win - you wont really find a better reason to green a thread during the regular season.
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