December 4, 2017, 2:40 am
The Rockets backcourt made the Lakers guards look like they were out to launch — then again, they do that to just about everyone.
Los Angeles played Houston tough for one quarter, leading for a significant part of the first period and ending the frame tied at 27. The Rockets out shot the Lakers 45.3 percent vs. 33.3 percent, hit 3-of-10 from 3-point range, 4-of-5 from the free throw line and were out rebounded 11-14 yet they would have faced a deficit if not for the heroic efforts of Eric Gordon who fueled them with 11 points and one block.
The Lakers were led by their frontcourt for the entire evening but particularly in the first frame in which Brandon Ingram set a strong tone. He had eight points, one steal, one assist and three rebounds. His efforts were bolstered by Larry Nance Jr. who contributed seven points and five rebounds and Brook Lopez who added five points, one block, one assist and three rebounds.
It was all downhill from there as the Rockets outscored the Lakers 34-19 in the second quarter to take a 61-46 lead into the half. James Harden dominated the frame with 16 points to finish the half with 20 points, five assists, two steals and a plus-9 rating. He was joined by Gordon who also poured in 20 points with an astounding plus-20 rating.
The Rocket guards continuously beat the Laker defenders off the dribble, getting to the basket with great ease, without facing much resistance from help defense or weak-side rotations. Lonzo Ball was particularly lax with his rotations appearing more interested in avoiding posters than providing help to his teammates.
The second half was more of the same as the Rockets fended off any run the Lakers could muster, easily escaping the game with a 118-95 victory, their seventh in a row.
The only downside for the Rockets was a potential injury to Ryan Anderson who left the game with back spasms after only 12 minutes.
They were led by Harden who finished with 36 points, nine assists, four rebounds, two steals and a plus-11 rating. The Lakers were unable to challenge him much on the defensive end allowing him a particularly efficient evening with 13-of-22 from the field, 4-of-9 from 3-point range and 6-of-7 from the free throw line.
He was joined by backcourt mate Chris Paul who relished the opportunity to embarrass the Lakers and Ball on their home court. Paul had one of his best games as a Rocket with 21 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals on 8-of-17 from the field and 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
The Lakers backcourt was simply no match on the evening on either end of the court. Ball, perhaps slow by tight calves, finished with only two points, three assists, one rebound, two blocks, three turnovers, and a minus-9 rating in 22 minutes. He shot 0-of-4 from the floor and did not play down the stretch.
Jordan Clarkson had a terrible game statistically and regressed to some of his bad habits of over dribbling and poor shot selection. He compiled only five points, one assist, one rebound and four turnovers on 1-of-9 shooting from the floor.
The only highlights for the Lakers were frontcourt players and in particular Ingram who ended the evening with 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists, one steal, one turnover and a minus-7 rating. He was aggressive from the onset and has really started to assert himself as a leader on this young Laker team.
He was joined by Nance Jr. who played sound defense all night and compiled 15 points, two steals, one block, eight rebounds and one assist with a minus-6 rating.
Kyle Kuzma led the team in many categories with 22 points, 12 rebounds, one steal, one block and an astoundingly bad minus-25 rating. He accrued many of his stats in the fourth quarter when the game was already in hand but still looked good doing it. Although the game was not heavily contested at that point, it was far from garbage time as both teams were still competing and the starters were still on the court.
Stats and Observations
- The Lakers shooting woes continued as they shot only 38.1 percent from the field compared to 50.0 percent for the Rockets.
- This pertained to long distance as well as the Rockets shot 37.8 from 3-point range while the Lakers shot only 32.1 percent from deep.
- Los Angeles continued their struggles from the free throw line converting only 22-of-30 for 73.3 percent while Houston was a more efficient 14-of-17 for 82.4 percent.
- Turnovers also continued to plague the Lakers as they committed 21 total turnovers vs. only 15 for the Rockets.
- The Rockets only had 17 assists on the night — largely because they were able to easily drive by their Laker defenders for easy makes at the basket.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Lakers as they head out on the road to take on the 76ers in Philadelphia. Los Angeles has slumped all the way to 8-15 compared to the 76ers who are on a different slope right now at 13-9.
The last time the two teams met Joel Embiid put on a performance for the history books with 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks.
Ben Simmons was also spectacular, just missing a triple-double with 18 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists, five steals and a block. He and Kyle Kuzma were just awarded Rookie of the Month in their respective conferences so it will be interesting to see them square off.
The Lakers hope that the respite will be enough to help Ball recuperate from his calf ailment as they badly missed his energy and production Sunday against the Rockets.