The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t exactly been a poster child for consistency to start this year. They have sleep walked their way through most games and, while they currently hold the best record in the entire NBA, haven’t seemed like they have hit their stride quite yet.
That may have changed over the last half of a week, however. The Lakers faced the Rockets in Houston in a pair of games on Sunday and Tuesday and completely eviscerated last year’s second round opponents, winning by an average margin of 17.5 points that frankly doesn’t accurately describes the level of domination exhibited by them.
The game on Tuesday was particularly backbreaking for the Rockets, who one would imagine wanted to get revenge for not only Sunday’s loss but a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the purple and gold in the playoffs. Instead, they fell behind early and never recovered, allowing the Lakers to have plenty of fun at their expense.
It feels almost impossible, but the Lakers broke the Rockets again. After the postseason loss, Houston moved on from general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’Antoni and traded Russell Westbrook to Washington for John Wall. After Tuesday’s loss, the Rockets seem once again closer to disaster than to contendership.
Rockets’ head coach Stephen Silas said the Lakers were “having fun at our expense,” reacting to LeBron James’ look-away 3-pointer and the team’s bench reaction. Wall preached about there not being any togetherness in Houston, likely taking a pot shot at James Harden who expressed his desire to be traded during the off-season and seems to have checked out already this year.
And then there’s Harden. The superstar guard’s feelings towards the Rockets were known through rumors and reports. But for the first time, Harden seemed to publicly verify their validity:
James Harden says Rockets are "just not good enough … I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can. I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed."
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 13, 2021
Now compare and contrast that statement with what Harden said on Saturday, just before these two games against the purple and gold:
James Harden: "We got a lot of work to do. I think every team feels that way…We just haven't had the opportunity to work together very often. As long as we continue to find chemistry, to find pace on both ends of the floor, we got a chance to do something special." #Rockets
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) January 9, 2021
Rightly or wrongly, teams that fancy themselves as title contenders this season are going to be held to the Lakers’ standards both externally and internally. The Rockets, for all intents and purposes, failed that mark by such a margin that their star is officially stating he’s giving up on the team and sending them to a remedial NBA season.
Between firings, blowing up a roster, and now public declarations of defeat, the Lakers have broken this Rockets team twice in the span of about four months. It feels good to be the villains again.