The final score looks a lot more respectable than the game was for the vast majority of the night, as our Houston Rockets mostly no-showed in another big moment, falling behind by as many as 23 before a late-fourth-quarter comeback made the final score a non-embarrassing 110-100.
There are two ways to respond to adversity, and unfortunately for these Rockets, the usual end result is that they crumble, and that sadly happened again here tonight.
With the Danuel House drama lingering in the background, Houston could have been galvanized by a potential us-against-the-world moment, but they instead came out listless, with none of the defensive energy they’d shown in the bubble to this point, and a passive offense that’s never going to get it done at this level.
The Rockets were annihilated in all of the hustle stats. They were beat on the boards 52-26, smashed in points in the paint 62-24, dominated 19-2 in fast break points, had 1 single offensive rebound, and no second chance points.
The Rockets were down double digits practically all night, as the Lakers carved them up inside, but Houston used an 18-2 fourth-quarter run when Los Angeles had all but mailed it in to make the final score just not as lopsided in the record books as it was to our eyes.
James Harden finished just 2-11 from the field — not busting any big game narratives any time soon — totaling 21 points, 16 of which came on free throws; again, not busting narratives. He did have 10 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 blocks, contributing in other ways, but Houston needed Harden at his absolute best, and he wasn’t. The Lakers’ trap is no excuse. Teams have been trapping Harden all year.
The Rockets also got 25 points from Russell Westbook on 8-16 shooting, and while Russ looked good at times, it wasn’t enough to offset an off night from Harden. He would’ve needed to be great.
Eric Gordon pitched in for 19 points on 4 triples, while Austin Rivers had 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in finally showing up after struggling most of the series, while Jeff Green and Ben McLemore had 9 points each. But that was it for the major Houston contributors.
P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington combined for 3 total points, and Houston’s defense was decimated all night and plagued by slow switches and rotations, so there weren’t a lot of intangibles involved there either.
The Lakers were led by Anthony Davis, who finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists, LeBron James. who totaled 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists, and Alex Caruso, who finished with 16 points off the bench, including a late three that stymied Houston’s Hail Mary run in the fourth.
They also got 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists from Rajon Rondo, and 10 points each from Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
It was a disappointing response by the Rockets in the biggest game of the year, and while the series is not yet over, it’s going to take a legendary NBA comeback to change to story of this one. I expected more out of these guys that we just didn’t get tonight, which doesn’t bode well for my either/or prediction.