The Houston Rockets are frauds.
I want to leave the recap at that but I’ll put in a little more effort because these Lakers deserve it.
The Los Angeles Lakers went into Houston on Saturday night without Anthony Davis (and Rajon Rondo) and despite looking uneasy in the first half due to some missed shots and poor defense, they came out on top after a dominant effort in the second half, eventually winning 124 to 115.
The Lakers started out the game playing exactly as the Rockets would have hoped, fouling James Harden unnecessarily and allowing Russell Westbrook open lanes to get to the rim. The team adjusted in the second half, however, throwing more double-teams at Harden (especially late in the shot clock) and forcing the rest of the Rockets to beat them. They held the Rockets to just 17 points in the third quarter, erasing a six-point halftime deficit and giving them enough momentum to ride all the way to the final buzzer.
LeBron James was predictably great despite a slow and unaggressive start to the game, finishing with 31 points, five rebounds, 12 assists and three steals and even earning MVP chants from the Lakers faithful in Houston during the fourth quarter.
But James was not alone in making up for Davis’ absence, his fifth straight with injury. Kyle Kuzma struggled with his shot early but got himself going on the defensive end by taking on the challenge of guarding Westbrook in the second half and that resulted in a much-improved performance on the other end where he finished with 23 points. Kuz also added eight rebounds, helping the shorthanded big man rotation on the glass.
Danny Green hit four 3-pointers en route to 20 points while playing fantastic individual defense (four steals) on Harden. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (team-leading +18 for the game) also scored 20 points while sparking the team with his energy. That duo paved the way for a relatively difficult night for Harden who scored 34 points but shot only 8-of-20 from the field and 2-of-9 from deep. He also turned the ball over six times (to his seven assists) and was a -12 on the night.
Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee each swatted three shots with Howard doing most of his work in the second quarter to keep the team in the game and McGee being the catalyst behind their hot start to the second half, particularly on a monster rejection of Clint Capela at the rim.
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) January 19, 2020
It was a tremendous team effort from the Lakers who hit just 11 of 33 shots from deep but made up for it by scoring 24 second-chance points and holding the Rockets to just 12-of-37 shooting from behind the arc.
The Lakers will face the Boston Celtics next on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and will be hoping to have Davis back in the rotation for the rivalry game.