April 11, 2018, 5:02 am
The Lakers and Rockets engaged in a hard-fought battle Tuesday night with Los Angeles eventually falling 105-99.
Los Angeles was once again without key players Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Isaiah Thomas. However, tonight was not about who didn’t take the court, but rather who did.
Andre Ingram made his NBA debut after toiling in the developmental leagues for the past 10 years. After his emotional signing went viral yesterday, Laker fans were well aware of his story and greeted him with loud cheers as he entered the game. Ingram made an immediate impact, scoring 10 points in his first seven minutes, to the delight of the fans in attendance. He finished his inaugural game with 19 points, three rebounds, three blocks and one steal on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, 4-of-5 from 3-point range and 3-of-3 from the free throw line. His performance was so riveting that he earned MVP chants on one of his trips to the charity stripe.
Josh Hart continued his stellar rookie season with 20 points, seven rebounds and two steals on 8-of-17 from the floor. He played a game-high 41 minutes and provided the team leadership, helping to keep the Lakers within striking distance throughout.
Julius Randle played in his 81st game of the season, contributing 17 points, eight rebounds and two steals on 7-of-12 shooting. He was limited to only 18 minutes and was not afforded a late curtain call in his last home game before free agency, perhaps a sign that coach Luke Walton expects to have Randle back next season.
Alex Caruso was outclassed all night by the Rockets’ guards but that didn’t dissuade him from playing his heart out — exemplified by his drawing a key charge with 90 seconds remaining in a meaningless game. His final stat line was indicative of his effort, chipping-in across the board with nine points, four rebounds, six assists, two steals and a plus-12 rating.
Ivica Zubac had a rough night, chipping-in two points, five rebounds and one steal in his twenty minutes. Unfortunately, the young man was left on an island with Chris Paul on multiple occasions, getting badly embarrassed including a play when Paul dribbled between Zubac’s legs en route to a lay up.
Paul tormented the Lakers’ guards as well, finishing with 22 points, six assists, three rebounds and one steal in only 27 minutes. He shot 9-of-14 from the field and 4-of-7 from 3-point range. He was able to dictate whatever he wanted, forcing unfavorable switches in the pick and roll, beating defenders one on one and generally looking completely unstoppable on the evening.
Clint Capela added 10 points, 12 rebounds and one steal in his 21 minutes of action.
Gerald Green was vital in securing the win, tallying 16 points, six rebounds and a plus-13 rating on 5-of-10 shooting from the field, 3-of-6 from 3-point range and 3-of-3 from the line.
James Harden had a sub-par night by his standards, accruing 21 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, one steal and one block in his tenure on the court. However, he converted only 6-of-15 shots and committed six turnovers.
This contest did not have the feel of a meaningless game; the stadium was buzzing with energy and the fans brought an intensity often reserved for playoff games. Coach Mike D’Antoni must have been influenced by the strong aura, opting to play his starters and key rotational players early into the fourth quarter, including 31 minutes for his MVP candidate Harden.
The Rockets did suffer an injury in the game, losing important defender Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to a dislocated shoulder on a dunk attempt — he will undergo an MRI Wednesday. Houston was fortunate to avoid further injury in a game that had no bearing on their playoff standing.
Houston is now 42-3 in games where Paul, Harden and Capela are all in the lineup.
Key Stats and Observations
-The Lakers amassed 35 fast break points compared to only nine for the Rockets. One factor that contributed to this disparity was the difference in steals with the Lakers holding a 14-9 edge over the Rockets.
-Los Angeles continued their season-long dominance in the key, outscoring Houston 48-40 in the paint.
-The key to the loss was the difference at the 3-point line where the Rockets converted 16-of-47 (34.0 percent) vs. 10-of-36 (27.8 percent) for the Lakers. The 18-point deficit for Los Angeles was the difference in a game that was otherwise statistically very close.
-The two teams shot an almost identical percentage for the game with Houston knocking down 37-of-88 (42.0 percent) while the Lakers made 38-of-90 (42.2 percent).
-The Lakers were unable to take advantage of 11 fourth quarter turnovers compared to five for Los Angeles — no small number. For the game, Los Angeles committed 17 miscues compared to 19 for Houston.
The Lakers play their final game of the season on Wednesday at Staples Center, but this time as the road team against the Clippers.
Ingram gets a second opportunity to shine against many of his peers as this game promises to feature each team’s second and third units extensively.
The Lakers are not expected to get back any of their key players and the Clippers are expected to bench leading scorer Lou Williams. However, these two teams have developed a mini-rivalry and the Lakers have demonstrated that they will bring energy to every battle — this game promises to be a high intensity matchup regardless of who is on the court.
April 23, 2019, 8:33 amMonty Williams - Team - Phoenix Suns
Adrian Wojnarowksi of ESPN is reporting that the timing on the dismissal of Igor Kokoskov from the Suns was partly rooted in their desire to compete against the Lakers in pursuit of Sixers assistant coach Monty Williams.
Suns GM James Jones played under Williams while he was an assistant coach with the Blazers, and new senior VP of basketball operations Jeff Bower hired Williams as head coach of the Pelicans in 2010. The Suns' next coach will be their seventh in an eight-season span which is all you need to know about the franchise’s direction. The Lakers are planning on a second meeting with Williams later this week, assuming the Sixers defeat the Nets on Tuesday to end their first-round series.
April 23, 2019, 8:22 amIgor Kokoskov - Team - Phoenix Suns
The Suns on Monday night announced that they have fired head coach Igor Kokoskov after just one year on the job.
After the end of the season, it looked like Phoenix had planned to bring Kokoskov back for a second year, especially after the team's strong play in late stages of the calendar. “After extensive evaluation, I determined it is best to move in a different direction with our head coaching position," Suns GM James Jones said in a statement. Former GM Ryan McDonough, hired Kokoskov away from his assistant job with the Utah Jazz last May but he was also let go nine days before the start of the season. Kokoskov has been a well-respected tactician who becomes another victim of the constant turnover in Phoenix but he should have no problem finding another job as an assistant in the near future.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
April 23, 2019, 1:30 amChris Paul - G - Houston Rockets
Chris Paul had a great Game 4 in Monday's 91-107 loss to the Jazz with 23 points on 8-of-19 shooting with eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers.
Paul had a nice breakaway dunk late in the fourth, showing that he's still got the hops and his defense throughout tonight was also solid. He brought back some of his vintage layup package, but the Rockets as a whole went cold from deep late in the game and couldn't stop Donovan Mitchell's barrage in the fourth quarter.
April 23, 2019, 1:30 amJae Crowder - F - Utah Jazz
Jae Crowder finally had a strong night offensively in Monday's Game 4 with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go with four rebounds, an assist, two steals and three 3-pointers.
Crowder had 18 first half points which would have been the most he's scored in any game this series. He was on fire to start the first period and his energy levels were much higher tonight. The Jazz finally got a strong game out of Crowder on both ends of the floor and he'll have to keep nailing shots for the Jazz to drag out this series.
April 23, 2019, 1:29 amRudy Gobert - C - Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert logged 24 foul-plagued minutes in Monday's Game 4 and scored four points on 2-of-4 shooting with nine rebounds, two assists, a steal and three blocks.
Gobert was a net-positive whenever he was on the floor tonight and he's getting better at keeping up with Houston's guards on the perimeter. He's blocked several of James Harden's floaters over the past two games and has dominated the paint when he plays, but was limited due to fouls tonight. Derrick Favors (24 minutes, 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting with 11 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block) more than carried his weight tonight as he kept the Rockets at bay with his suffocating defense inside the paint in the final period of action.
April 23, 2019, 1:24 amClint Capela - C - Houston Rockets
Clint Capela struggled in Monday's Game 4, scoring four points on 1-of-6 shooting with seven rebounds and two assists in 28 minutes.
Capela went 2-for-6 at the line and he was severely limited in tonight's game as he struggled with Utah's physicality. The normal lobs he received from James Harden were much more difficult to control tonight and he had trouble finishing around the rim. We expect him to be much better in the next game.
April 23, 2019, 1:24 amDonovan Mitchell - G - Utah Jazz
Donovan Mitchell carried the Jazz in their 107-91 win over the Rockets in Game 4 on Monday with 31 points on 11-of-26 shooting to go with seven rebounds, four assists, a steal and three 3-pointers.
Mitchell finally got some help from his teammates tonight as they helped carry the team's offensive burden throughout the first three periods. In the final quarter, Mitchell scored the Jazz's first 13 points and ended up with 19 fourth quarter points. He had a dazzling spin move, some deep triples and a freakishly athletic alley-oop dunk all in the span of 12 minutes and has kept the Jazz season alive for at least another game due to his heroic efforts. Although the team as a whole has struggled offensively, Mitchell showed his superstar potential tonight.
April 23, 2019, 1:17 amRicky Rubio - G - Utah Jazz
Ricky Rubio scored 18 points on 6-of-17 shooting while adding 11 assists, three rebounds, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer in Game 4 on Monday.
Rubio played much better defense on Houston's guards tonight but was still unable to stretch the floor with his shooting as he went 1-for-7 from deep. If he can make incremental improvements on his defensive assignment while hitting a couple more triples, the Jazz have a good shot at extending this series.
April 23, 2019, 1:15 amJames Harden - G - Houston Rockets
James Harden scored 30 points on 8-of-19 shooting with three rebounds, four assists, two steals and six 3-pointers in Game 4 on Monday.
Harden is facing one of the toughest defenses in the league so the shots he makes are difficult. The step-back 3s were on full display tonight, but Harden had difficulty penetrating the Jazz defense whenever Rudy Gobert was manning the paint. Although his shooting percentages were high, he committed eight turnovers as the mid-range territory is one of the hardest to navigate. Gobert is predicting his floaters and Clint Capela couldn't grab and finish the usual lob passes which hampered Harden's success tonight. He's slowly figuring out the Jazz defense and if Capela can return to form we can expect his assist numbers to spike.
April 23, 2019, 1:12 amEric Gordon - G - Houston Rockets
Eric Gordon scored 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting with five 3-pointers, a rebound, an assist and a block in Monday's Game 4.
Gordon started off hot and did all the stuff the Rockets expected him to do, but late in the game he was unable to hit timely shots for Houston. He'll get another crack at some open looks due to Utah's defensive scheme.