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Fourth-quarter collapse dooms Rockets 112-102

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The Lakers won this one more than the Rockets lost it.

Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets - Game Three
Probably a foul on Harden.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It seemed as though the Los Angeles Lakers had their perfect game in game two of this second round series. They made an improbable shot percentage. They got to hit their opponents in the gonads without repercussion. Scott Foster made his contribution.

Those hoping for a decline in lamentable Laker luck likely little looked for an impeccable half of basketball from the NBA’s greatest former child prodigy, LeBron James. His first half of basketball in this game is one of the reasons some consider him the finest basketball player of his generation, if not all time. His legacy could only be improved if he didn’t complain about (literally) every single thing that didn’t go his way.

There wasn’t a shot the Komplainin’ King couldn’t make. Long turnaround fallaways, stepback threes, charges drives into the opposition. The Rockets somehow kept pace with this explosive play, and came into the second half with a slight lead.

The Lakers defense locked down in the second half, and didn’t need to be carried by James. The Rockets went from scoring 64 in the first half, to 38 in the second. That’s not a scoreline for a Rockets victory. The Lakers would struggle, over an entire game, to match 128 points. The Rockets, by contrast, have little hope in a contest that hovers around 100pts, until things got sloppy late.

LeBron James kept the Lakers alive in the first half, where a normal output might have seen them buried. Their defense buried the Rockets in the second half. The Laker defense, and an unlikely offensive explosion from Rajon Rondo. It pains me that a player I’ve never, at any point, enjoyed watching, could be the difference in a Rockets playoff game. Tonight he was, scoring 21 points, with 9 assists.

I doubt Rondo is playable by a team that doesn’t possess two threats like James and Davis, but he can play center field, guess on passes, slap, and shoot open shots, because the two Laker stars are there to clean up his mistakes, and keep defenders glued to them. His mind, and passing are still good, though, so he works for the Lakers in this context. He needs to be attacked, quickly, rather than allowed to poke away dribbling exhibitions. Rondo’s lateral movement is virtually non-existent. Why Russell Westbrook, who had a much better game, doesn’t just drive him every time is a mystery.

The Rockets smallball experiment could end in this series. It would be a shame, though, to see it end on badly reffed decisions in the paint. James and Anthony Davis got a very favorable whistle tonight, between them shooting 7 more free throw attempts than the entire Rockets team (21 for Davis and James, 14 for the Rockets). It feels through ten playoff games, that the Rockets are graded on an extremely strict matrix. They have shot more free throws than their playoff opponents once in ten games. We could have a discussion about playoff whistles and so forth, but this seems extreme.

The Rockets are a team that relies on interchangeable parts, and energy. Losing the energy of Danuel House cost them dearly, and I hope all is well with a guy who typically gives the Rockets all he has. The Rockets bench had a miserable outing, scoring only 16pts (from Jeff Green) while the Lakers recorded 41pts, largely off Rondo’s 21. This must change. Austin Rivers, and Ben McLemore (when in the game) must do better.

The Rockets set the pace in the first half, but Lebron James was, almost solely, able to match it. The Lakers set the pace in the second half, and the Rockets wilted. Don’t blame James Harden, who ended the night with 33pts on 11-23 shooting, with 9 rbs, 9 ast, and only 2 TO. The one thing I would say the Rockets need to do, is punish the Laker double team of Harden, and quickly.

The Rockets can tie things up with a win in the next game, but to do it they must force the Lakers into a Rockets game, and not the other way around.

Poll

Series?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Rockets in six.
    (36 votes)
  • 16%
    Rockets in seven.
    (123 votes)
  • 35%
    Lakers in five.
    (267 votes)
  • 31%
    Lakers in six.
    (232 votes)
  • 3%
    Lakers in seven.
    (26 votes)
  • 8%
    This feels a bit too predictable.
    (60 votes)
744 votes total Vote Now