It wasn’t just the poor free-throw shooting, the turnovers, or the scoring woes - but they each played a part in the (1-4) Houston Rockets’ Halloween night thumping from the hands of the (4-3) Los Angeles Lakers.
Houston turned the ball over 25 times, shot 15-29 from the charity stripe, and only knocked down 6-27 of their shots from beyond the arc and the Lakers were able to feast off that despite not seeing any huge performances from any of their starters - not that they needed it.
Carmelo Anthony led the game in scoring with 23 points while the highest-scoring Rocket was Eric Gordon who pitched in 17 points on 4-10 shooting, with all of those makes coming from three-point range.
The game opened up with tough defense from both teams but seemingly before anyone could blink, L. A had jumped out to a 13-5 lead which would only grow from there. The youthful Rockets looked flatfooted while their veteran foes seemed to move with much more energy and intensity on both ends of the floor which eventually helped them pile up a 27-15 lead after the opening quarter.
The second quarter is when things went from ugly to brutal because LeBron James began to impose his will on Houston. It wasn’t just the reverse slam he threw down as he raced past Jalen Green or the series of moves that he had put on Alperen Sengun one minute earlier that brought Staples Center to its feet - it was also the crisp display of passing and the way he was able to muscle past any young Rocket that got in his way.
When the teams went into the locker room for halftime, Houston was trailing 54-35.
Despite how ugly the opening half was, the Rockets came out and looked like a team that believed they could come from behind and steal a victory for Los Angeles. They rattled off a 9-1 run at one point to trim the lead to 55-43 but then James again began to take the game over and slowed things down to a point where the Lakers were able to regroup and close the quarter out with a 20-9 run; Houston trailed 75-54 heading into the final frame.
In the final quarter, the Rockets played with enough control and composure to narrow the gap on the scoreboard which forced the Los Angeles’ starters to play longer than what was likely anticipated when heading into the fourth. The Rockets were ignited by Kenyon Martin Jr who pitched in 12 points off the bench and threw down a mean finish after a series of nifty crossovers from Kevin Porter Jr and then another slam moments later.
That assist from Porter Jr helped him finish with 4 on the night along with 13 points and 9 rebounds. The Rockets also saw contributions from Christian Wood who finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds along with Sengun who added 11 points and pulled down 7 boards.
When the dust settled, it was a 95-85 loss for the Houston Rockets and their record now drops to 1-5 but will have their shot at redemption on Tuesday night when they once again battle the Lakers at Staples Center.