Houston’s 14 game win streak came to an end at the hands of a young Lakers team powered by Kyle Kuzma and Corey Brewer. Potentially seeking vengance on behalf of the L.A. Dodgers, the Lakers out-paced and out-shot Houston and took home a 122-116 victory.
Rockets fans need to take a deep breath as Chris Paul left the game early in the fourth quarter with an injury wrongfully described by Bill Worrell as “left knee soreness.” CP3 missed 14 games earlier in the year with a left knee bruise, so there would be cause for serious concern if Worrell’s information had been correct.
Instead Mike D’Antoni said post-game the injury was an abductor strain:
Mike D'Antoni said Paul had an adductor strain, not an issue with the knee. Did not know about Friday.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) December 21, 2017
Paul’s return from injury ignited Houston’s win streak and his departure this evening helped end it.
Houston got off to an uncharacteristic slow start. Their offense didn’t keep pace with Kuzma’s flamethrower shooting, dude was 6-6 from three at one point.
The red and yellow boys trailed by 20 in the second quarter and it looked almost certain the streak was ending.
This margin and narrative seemingly irritated James Harden who put the team on his back and led the Rockets charging back to take a brief lead int he third quarter. The Beard finished with 51 points and 9 assists on 15-27 shooting. He had two four point plays.
The Rockets were never able to put the game in a headlock. They stayed nearly even with L.A. during much of the third then lost their grip after Paul’s injury.
Houston didn’t have its regular mojo this evening. There was too many passes on the perimeter as shooters passed up open shots and the Rockets failed to play any of the defense they won accolades for earlier in the season.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni stuck with a seven-man rotation as Clint Capela missed this game with a minor calf issue. When CP3 departed this shrunk to a six-man rotation. When P.J. Tucker fouled out midway through the fourth the guys on the court were the only players D’Antoni would put forward.
Tarik Black starred in a four minute cameo, but D’Antoni’s rotation leaned heavily on players who have suffered fatigue in past seasons. Ariza went 45 minutes and Harden went 43 in this one.
Ryan Anderson continued his total disappearing act. His failure to score in the first half meant two-and-a-half games without scoring a point. He scored one two point bucket in the second half to give him two points over the last three games. He posted a -22 plus/minus on the evening.
Kyle Kuzma deserves recognition for torching Houston to the tune of 38 points on 12-17 shooting, including 7-10 from three.
Corey Brewer exacted revenge on Daryl Morey by dropping 21 points in 25 minutes including a late dagger three to ice the game. Brewer was a game-high +18 and looked like the dude who lit up the Clippers in the playoffs and once dropped 51 points on the Houston Rockets for Minnesota.
Lastly, I finally heard about Lonzo Ball for a legitimate reason... he was playing my team. Kyle Kuzma is better.