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Rockets fall to Lakers 120-102

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Outrun.

Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets
Lebron James is grateful that he shoots FTs on his own offensive fouls.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Some Rockets fans were excited by the early NBA season schedule, based on the short pre-season’s results. Not me.

It seemed like the Rockets, with the Harden disruptions, many new players, new coach, would be shaky to begin the year. The early schedule was full of tough opponents, including two games against the NBA Champion Lakers.

I may rail on NBA favoritism and the (perhaps) economic necessity that drives it, but make no mistake, the Lakers are excellent. Possessing two giant superstars, one of whom has slotted into his natural role as a supporting player, and the other a candidate for best ever, the Lakers begin every game with natural advantages.

They play in a way different from nearly every team in the NBA: defense first. A huge percentage of their offense is a result of their defense. They execute the fast break nearly perfectly, and have a deep roster, with good players nearly everywhere. The loss of Playoff Rondo and Danny Green may hurt them in the playoffs, but they added offense in Dennis Schroder and Mark Gasol and are built to dominate the regular season.

In many ways the Lakers are a kind of old school NBA team that has just swapped its mid-range shots for three pointers. In true Laker fashion, they’re front runners that are excellent at beating an opponent down from a lead.

This is an underrated skill, which the Rockets don’t seem to have. Why worry about a foul call here or there, if it couldn’t cut into the lead? Swipe at the ball, they won’t call everything.

I suspect that LA’s “pure” half-court offense (that is, not fast break, not early offense off a missed shot) is merely good, not great, but they rarely need it to be. When things get tough they can simply let Lebron ram into defenders and shoot free throws.

Against a team playing careless basketball, a team that hasn’t come close to gelling, the Lakers are lethal.

The Rockets played careless basketball. The made silly mistakes, they went away from whatever offensive concept Stephen Silas is trying to install (except when the lineup was mostly new Rockets) to play hero ball.

The scoring advantage on fast break points for LA was enormous, I lost track after 27-4 in the early 4th quarter. The Rockets turned it over constantly, and LA made them pay.

That said, the Rockets did close the lead at times, they did find things that worked. But they can’t seem to string together more than about five minutes of good play so far this year. They can’t seem to make open looks, and they absolutely must, to compete. The Rockets might be able to overwhelm some opponents with Harden and Wall driving the basket, but the Lakers aren’t one of them.

Don’t despair.

It’s early days, this was an early, not late, test. The Rockets are far from the top, as we saw tonight, but they’re also far from together as a team. That’s to be expected. How far they have to go remains to be seen, but don’t give up with 11% of games played. The NBA is rarely decided by who was the best in the first 15% of the season.

Poll

How are you feeling, basketball-wise?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Disappointed but upbeat.
    (104 votes)
  • 27%
    Discouraged, but despairing.
    (73 votes)
  • 6%
    Superfine! Really chill. It may be something I ate.
    (17 votes)
  • 27%
    They’re sledding in Dallas. It isn’t fair.
    (75 votes)
269 votes total Vote Now