The Rockets get back on the winning side of things after a 130-110 beating of the Lakers Sunday afternoon. Both teams fought back and forth throughout the game till the fourth quarter when the Rockets started to catch fire and really push past the 16-win team. James Harden scored 40 points, including 20 of those in the Rockets' big fourth quarter.
The Rockets with the win now sit one game behind the Jazz for the eighth and final seed in the west with only two games remaining. If the Jazz go 1-1 and the Rockets go 2-0, Houston is in the playoffs. Below are three takeaways from the Rockets home win over the Lakers.
Let's face it, it's the end of an era, with Kobe Bryant hanging it up in just a few games. Bryant came out Sunday and had a vintage "Black Mamba" game.
He finished the game with 35 points in 27 minutes on 10-22 shooting and he looked amazing. I will admit in the past, when the Lakers were bouncing the Rockets out of the playoffs seemingly every year, I grew to hate Kobe. But today, his Lakers a joke and the Rockets are only sort of in the playoff picture. Fans were able to enjoy Kobe doing work, hitting unbelievable shots and making defenders look silly.
In the first quarter Harden and Bryant both traded blows back and forth. In the third Bryant went off, but Harden would have the last laugh carrying the Rockets on his back for another win.
"He made some big shots, but that's what he's been doing for 20 years," Harden said of Bryant's night. "It was just an exciting game and something I'll never forget in my life."
Josh Smith gets time
Micheal Beasley might be the Rockets second-best scorer on the team, but he only played nine minutes. Corey Brewer was one of the best runners and gunners in the league, and does well in small ball, but he only got eight minutes.
J.B. Bickerstaff instead, in crunch time, in the "biggest" game of the year, chose to give minutes to Josh Smith. Now in back-to-back games, he has played 15-plus minutes after riding the bench for the last month.
Josh Smith, to his credit, did a decent job, he played good defense, he chucked up three's like he was the second coming of Reggie Miller. All-in-all it was a Josh Smith game.
I made this a takeaway because J.B. Bickerstaff again shows you that he has no rotation and the only thing that is guaranteed night in and night out is that Harden will play all 24 minutes of the second half.
Should we blame Leslie Alexander?
The Rockets are fighting tooth and nail for the honor to be the first team eliminated by the Warriors. But why? Well, to make the playoffs! Who know,s maybe then the Rockets will finally catch fire and make it all the way back to the Western Conference Finals and maybe beyond!
Have Rockets given you any reason at all this season to believe they can beat the Warriors even once?
After the loss to the Suns, the Rockets should have packed it in and started planning for the draft, who to target in free agency, and start the coaching search.
Getting to the playoffs at this point extends the Rockets season about four games, and is that worth losing a first round pick?
Alexander has been a great and amazing owner, allowing the Rockets to go get whoever they needed (money is no object), he is always pushing and trying to make a champion. But in the same light, that passion for pushing and always fighting is doing a disservice to the Rockets of next season and beyond.
Everything comes down from the top. If Alexander told Daryl Morey that it was time to retool and start getting a look at his team's younger talent, that is what would happen. But instead, every move the Rockets have made this season shows that they wanted to continue to fight and claw. To what end, only Les knows.