Well, tomorrow's Monday, so it's not too much longer until Round 2 kicks off for the Lakeshow, when they entertain the Very Large Chinese Man and his Houston Rocket cohorts...
Here's a little spin around the virtual neighborhood to see what the Texas types are touting about this matchup of Starpower v. Defensive Grit...
by Richard Justice, Houston Chronicle
There was a snapshot moment early in a game seven weeks ago when Shane Battier ended up alone in the corner during a possession for the Rockets.
That night, the Los Angeles Lakers decided he wasn't even worth guarding. He stood there, spacing the floor, waiting, doing his job. Even worse than the Lakers ignoring him, his teammates ignored him, too.
Rather than get the ball to an open man, they played a four-on-five possession, thus allowing Kobe Bryant to leave Battier and apply freelance defensive pressure where it was needed.
Battier was in the worst shooting slump of his career, but that's beside the point.
Which brings us to the first lesson of Rockets-Lakers, The Improbable If Not Darn Near Impossible Dream.
If there's an open shot, take it. That means you, Shane Battier. You too, Aaron Brooks.
"I know I'll have opportunities," Battier said. "If I get 20 3-point shots, guess what? I'm going to take 20 3-point shots."
Easy there, big fella. Don't go Ron Artest on us. We've come too far to get silly. * * *
More after the jump...
by Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle
Rockets fans just don't hate the Lakers — do you?
Oh there is a serious dislike of those purple-and-gold-wearing pretty boys, dating to when Moses Malone dominated the series and Thomas Henderson got into Magic forcing an airball late in the deciding Game 3 in '81.
But it is far from the disdain you have for the Jazz, the Mavericks or the Spurs. * * *
The Lakers and Rockets have met seven times in the playoffs, with LA holding a 4-3 advantage. That's fairly even, but in the regular season, Los Angeles is a dominating 124-60 against Houston.
More evidence to how the two franchises usually stand: in those seven playoff series (this year makes it eight) the Rockets have never had the home-court advantage.
I think we hated them in the 1980s. Appreciated their play, but disliked them. * * *
Lakers fans act superior, their franchise has an arrogance like that of the Yankees (it's understandable, but it's still arrogance) and the media has almost always treated the Lakers like darlings and the Rockets like ugly ducklings. Plus, they have The Laker Girls ... wait a minute, that's a good thing.
Yet, you don't really hate the Lakers. Why is that? * * *
by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle
The euphoria of the victory was fresh. The Rockets had escaped the first round only minutes earlier. They had not washed away the sweat of the endeavor, much less savored the accomplishment, when they were reminded of the daunting task awaiting them.
There were references to the Lakers' sweep of the Rockets this season, to their position as heavy favorites and potential to win the championship that was just out of reach in the NBA Finals a year ago.
But the reminders were not from killjoys ruining the moment. They came from the Rockets. * * *
"We play as a team," forward Luis Scola said. "When you play like a team, it helps to get back when you have bad times. Even in a game when you're playing bad, it helps to get back in the game.
"It's a tough matchup. It's one of the two best teams in the NBA. Even game by game and through the whole series, there's going to be ups and downs.
There's going to be moments they go ahead. There's going to be moments we go ahead and they're going to come back and it's going to feel like things are going bad. That's when you have to play as a team and play together. That's what's going to make us bounce back."
With that in mind, the Rockets said it also does not bother them to hear the Lakers are heavily favored. Finishing 12 games ahead of the Rockets in the Western Conference standings and winning the four meetings by an average of 13 points per game, would seem to justify that.
"We feel that the fans in Houston, they expect us to win the same way any other fans expect their home team to win," guard/forward Ron Artest said. "We're going out there the same way we went out to the Portland series - play basketball, play hard, play smart." * * *
by Reginald Blackstone, Fourthandfifty.com
Kobe Bryant is getting a little too cocky. Hey look at me I have 3 NBA Championships, I use to be the MVP, I won a gold medal in the Olympics, my team is the number 1 seed in the West.
Your accolades mean nothing. You're going to have to face Shane Battier, this guy has so many intangibles it will drive you mad trying to find them. Yao Ming is taller than anyone on your team, so in your face. Aaron Brooks looks like Chris Rock, do you have any players that look like celebrities on your team? Ron Artest will, refer to picture above. Luis Scola will dominate you with his Argentinean skills. That's just the Rockets starters. You still have to deal with Carl Landry, who doesn't even let bullets slow him down. Kyle Lowry is solid, and Von Wafer has the shooting skillz to put Los Lakers in a hospital. * * *
The Rockets faced the Lakers four times during the regular season and walked away with a loss each time, but I'm not ready to count them out just yet. Let's take a look at each of these games:
November 9, 2008: Loss 82-111 (Away) This was early in the season, so this loss doesn't count.
January 13, 2009: Loss 100-105 (Home Game) Rockets were getting use to Tracy being out of the line up.
March 11, 2009: Loss 96-102 (Home Game) New line up excuse again. Post Alston trade.
April 3, 2009: Loss 81-93 (Away) I'm going to call this one a strategic loss, due to playoff positioning.
From this flawless analysis we can see that none of the Lakers wins against the Rockets during the season were legitimate. * * *
by GrungeDave, The Dream Shake
Yes, I'm going there. I have no problems stating it. Whomever is fortunate to survive the war of attrition that will be the Rockets/Lakers 2nd round series... that's going to be the team that collects this [NBA Championship Trophy] from Mr. Stern in June.
The Lakers are the obvious favorite to win the series, and the homecourt advantage only helps the cause. Kobe is admittedly on an insane, obsessive mission of types to win his fourth ring this year. Let's face it, the Lakers are damned good.
Meanwhile, the Rockets just got a massive monkey off their back by winning a first round series. Which means - no pressure. None at all. While Artest stated to the fans Thursday night that they are not done with their goals, a simple series victory is now going to allow the Rockets to play free and loose. Don't expect a lot of mental mistakes due to pressure or playing "tight". Yao is no longer an annual playoff flameout. Hell, you might even see Coach Sleepy call a play or two now. Anything is possible. As Simmons likes to state, the proverbial ceiling has been removed. * * *
The only team that is true a matchup nightmare for the Rockets is already eliminated. (Haha, you suck Utah!) Denver does not scare me. Nor does Dallas. And the Rockets will want revenge for the last game of the regular season if it comes to that.
Over in the East, does Boston scare anyone? The Rockets own Orlando (Yao > Dwight). The Rockets have also shown the supposed best team in the NBA how defense is really played. The last team LeBron wants to see in the NBA Finals would be the Houston Rockets. (And it's not like the Lakers don't completely own the LeBrons this year either.)
Remember? LeBron with 0 assists? Yeah, that was Houston's fault. * * *
And the bottom line:
1. You might be favored, Lakers, but we're not afraid of you...
2. The Rockets do something better than the Lakers or anybody else — defense...
3. And the Rockets play as a team, so if you think Kobe is going to freestyle it to an easy series victory, guess again.