- Pass ahead on every miss.
- Demoralize them early.
- Outhustle them.
The Lakers went 3-3, mostly off of Houston’s laziness in the opening quarter. Every time Houston missed a shot in the first quarter, there was LeBron James or Anthony Davis grabbing the rebound and tossing the ball ahead to a wide open Laker for a layup. LeBron also did the thing where he made a couple of relatively easy layups then flexed to the crowd of like 12 people after he got the and-1. It cannot be overstated how devastating those were to the Rockets early. It set the tone that the Lakers were going to be the stronger and more aggressive team, and they absolutely were. And it put Christian Wood into unnecessary foul trouble. Finally, Talen Horton-Tucker, a player I thought was entirely a product of the Los Angeles media, outhustled every Rockets player for multiple rebounds and loose balls.
The Rockets were woeful on Sunday. Eric Gordon looked like a kid that just hit puberty and hadn’t figured out how to use his newfound long limbs correctly. Time after time he dribbled off his leg or left the ball within easy reach of LA’s guards. Somehow, he only had four turnovers, but it felt like he had 20. The aggressive John Wall from the Indiana game disappeared, to be replaced by the rusty Wall we expect to see at times early this season. I know the 14/10/5 stat line looks decent, but a team-worst +/- of -28 doesn’t. Somehow, James Harden put forth the least effort of any of Houston’s starters and still finished with a -11. Harden has to be more engaged, but he does need some help.
Look, there’s nothing that can stop the Los Angeles Lakers from winning a second-straight NBA title except injuries. Their offense has a bunch of weapons, they work their tails off on defense, and they are supremely confident. I have a hard time seeing any team stand in their way. Who’s beating this team four times in seven games? Certainly not the Rockets, who are prime candidates to get swept by the Lakers in the regular season and then again in the playoffs if Sunday’s game is indicative of anything.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest and NBA TV