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Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers Game 3 preview

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals Sunday night reminded me a lot of Game 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

You may recall that in that game during the first round, Houston came up scorching in the third quarter, hitting their first eight three points. The Rockets led by 15 late in the quarter, but faded late in the quarter when James Harden sat. The Rockets never found their shooting touch in the fourth quarter and the Thunder won.

In Game 2 against LA, the Rockets had played a poor first half and used a hot shooting streak to take the lead heading into the fourth quarter. But once again, a scorching quarter was followed by a frigid one. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the “Live and Die by the 3” Rockets, it’s that the other half of that coin is always one possession away.

The JaVale McGee injury has allowed the Lakers to go all-in on playing small, and that’s not great for Houston. AD can do more damage as a five than a four against the Rockets, and LeBron can do damage from any position.

Much of the attention has gone to Russell Westbrook’s poor play in Game 2, and that’s fair. The Brodie was bad. That’s part of the Russ Experience, and it’s not ending any time soon. What Houston cannot allow is another contest where Rajon Rondo decimates their bench to the tune of a +/- of +28. Conversely, Houston cannot get a -26 from Jeff Green, who’s been fabulous during his tenure with the Rockets. Worse, Austin Rivers was a -18 in seven minutes.

But there are some reasons for hope for Houston. Regression seems likely to occur in those scenarios. Furthermore, the Lakers are unlikely to shoot 57% from the field or 44% from deep three more times in the series. Scott Foster won’t get assigned to this series more than one or two more times (right?). Finally, I’m enjoying James Harden playing against defenders that aren’t Lu Dort. The Beard had a quietly efficient night in Game 2, and is trending upward. Eric Gordon has also looked great.

Tip-off is at 8pm CT on TNT