It did not take long for James Harden to emerge out of his shooting funk from the previous game. Harden scored his first basket of the night with a contested layup attempt over Anthony Davis early in the first quarter. The three-time NBA Scoring Champion would go on to score 25 first-half points en route a 112-97 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, Friday night, inside the AdventHealth Arena in Orlando.
With the win, the Rockets opened the Western Conference Semi-Finals with a 1-0 series lead over the Lakers.
While it was an exceptional performance from Harden — who ended the night with 36 points (12-20 FG, 3-6 3PT) — the former league MVP was not alone in the Rockets’ Game 1 victory. Coming in resembling the team who had a six-day layoff instead of the Lakers, Houston had an equal balance of scoring coming from their supporting cast, as they shot 48.1% from the field, 35.9% from behind the arc.
Up by six heading into the fourth quarter, the Rockets took full control of the game early in the final period. Behind 11 fourth quarter points coming from Eric Gordon, Houston opened the period on a 12-3 run. Gordon ended the night with 23 points in the win.
“Right now, I think his body feels good, and he looks good. His defense tonight on LeBron [James] was good. Eric played really well on both ends tonight — we just had to get him healthy.” — Mike D’Antoni
Despite putting on an offensive clinic, defense played a significant factor in the Rockets’ blowout victory.
Only four players scored in double-figures for Los Angeles, as Davis led the way with 25 points for the Lakers. LeBron James added in 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in the loss. The Rockets held their Western Conference foe to 42.2% shooting from the floor, and an unpleasant 28.9% from behind the arc. In addition to keeping the Lakers under 100 points for the second time this season, Houston held their own on the boards as both teams pulled down 41 rebounds on the night.
“I don’t care if you are 7-feet. If you don’t have heart, it does not matter. We got guys who are able to switch and play different positions. It does not matter how tall you are. If you have the heart, you can be out there on the court.” — Harden
While working his way back after missing the first four games of the post-season, Russell Westbrook scored 24 points and added in nine rebounds and six assists — looking more like his all-star form. Austin Rivers gave the Rockets a boost coming off the bench, as the Orlando native scored 10 points in 16 minutes of play.
Up next, the Rockets will attempt to take a commanding 2-0 series lead against the Lakers on Sunday, Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT.