The Lakers started this one sluggish. They gave up 34 points in the 1st Quarter and it looked liked I was going to start looking for that ticket to New Orleans,because Aaron Brooks came out hot. He scored 12 points in the 1st, and Jermaine Taylor added another 10. Not the boxer, in case your wondering, but he might've scored another 6 the way it as looking. The Lakers had energy, but the defense lacking and t looked like it might be another long night. Then the Lakers really woke up.
Probably remembering how much they stunk last night, they scored 35 points in the 2nd while only letting up 11, highlighted by a pretty ridiculous 20-0 run in the last six minutes of the half, where Houston missed 10 straight shots. Houston went from hot start to merely missing awful shots. The Lakers rode Pau and Fish actually dropped some buckets, amazingly -puts shotgun back in case-.
To put into perspective how much the Lakers sucked the night before, realise that the Lakers surpassed their point total against Oklahoma less than halfway into the third.
Unfortunately, the Lakers being the Lakers, they couldn't hold the lead up, and went from leading by 20 at the three-quarter pole to only winning by 8. This didn't even entirely have the bench mob to blame, as Kobe played half of the fourth himself, pushing back a few Rockets runs but still letting them get far closer than necessary. Really, if this game were ended after three quarters, it would be a good game, but in reality it is just average - though it is nice to see the Lakers break the 100-point barrier, considering their offensive woes of the season.
The Lakers shot a sexy 57.5% from the field (while holding the Rockets to 43.2%). While these numbers come against a team that is average defensively, it's still nice to see L.A. shoot over 10 percentage points better than the norm. We also converted threes at an equally sexy 57.1% (8-14), which means that if we conveniently forget yesterday's game ever happened, we've had two >50% 3-point shooting games in a row. We held the Rockets to a shade under 31% from deep, which is the norm for us to do.
We outrebounded the Rockets handily - considering their lack of height this should just be taken for granted, but we can take nothing for granted with the Lakers of this season; and the fact they grabbed more offensive boards than us, though mitigated by their lower shooting percentage, is still a cause for irritation.. We turned the ball over a hell of a lot, which is now a trend for us - I don't remember the last time we had a stretch of three games with less than 45 total turnovers. We owned them in the paint with 9 blocks to 1, but they stripped us 5 more times in retaliation. Our free throw shooting was pretty pedestrian at 70.8%, continuing the struggles we've been having from the line this season. We shared the ball decently, with 21 assists (three times the number we racked up last night).
Coming to individual performances, Kobe had a quiet and efficient game, with 17 points on 50% shooting and being 1 assist away from a triple-double in 36 minutes of play, but his turnovers still remain a concern - he threw the ball away 5 times this contest. Derek Fisher, possibly reacting to my threat, had what was probably his best offensive game of the season with 15 points on 6-8 shooting, 3-3 from downtown and 3 assists to 0 turnovers.
Our frontcourt performed decently, with Odom putting up a quiet 13-points, 13-board outing on only 9 shots, with three assists to boot. Pau dominated offensively, 30 points off of 17 shots with a Megan Fox-esque 11-17fg% and 8-9ft%. His rebounding was subpar by his standards, however, only drawing in 8 caroms on the night. He still owned the paint against the smaller Rockets 'bigs' with 4 blocks, however. Regardless, considering the lack of size possessed by the Rockets, Pau's performance comes accross as pedestrian, and one should not get their hopes up regarding him until he has a strong performance against a good frontline.
Artest had a pretty mediocre offensive game, shooting 33% for 7 points, 1 board and 1 assist, but had a nice fantasy-league bonus of 2 blocks and 2 steals. Without any major offensive threat on the Rockets for him to lock down into oblivion, his talents were not ripe to be harvested for this game.
Our bench actually played well, for once, being quietly efficient and not rushing shots or over-shooting. Shannon had 9 points on 3-5 shooting (possibly his lowest shot total since the All-Star break) with 2 boards and 2 assists in 27 minutes, despite somehow garnering 5 fouls in 27 minutes. Jordan had 14 points on 5-7 shooting with 4 caroms and 1 dime (1 dime really isn't good enough for a lead guard, however). in 26 minutes. DJ Mbenga also held his ground with 4 points and 2 boards on perfect shooting in 7 minutes of game time, garnished with a steal. And J-Peezy... let's not go there.
Defensively, Los Angeles did okay as a team, doing nothing to harm their status as one of the top defensive teams in the League by holding the Houston Rockets to around 43% from the field and below 31% from the line, as well as handily outrebounding them and protecting the paint with 9 blocks. The only reason Houston was able to crack triple digits was good execution (25 assists) and points off turnovers (24).
Considering our fear of Aaron Brooks and other speedy point guards, we actually did a decent job against him. Sure, he put up 26 and 7, but it took him 22 shots to do so and resulted in him shooting under 40%, thanks to Phil finally waking up and limiting the amount of time Brooks had free reign on Fisher by playing Farmar and Brown heavy minutes. Artest locked up Trevor Ariza pretty tight, as was to be expected - Ariza's been shooting atrociously this season and Artest should be the frontrunner for DPoY. Luis Scola, however, was left free to run rampant; 28/10/5 on 16 shots for an undersized PF? Not good enough by the Laker bigs. Scola was the best player on the court, and considering the offensive and defensive talent our frontline possesses, that should not have occured.\
A pretty standard win for these Los Angeles Lakers, starting asleep, putting on a run to seemingly destroy any prospect of losing, yet then again very nearly losing the lead on the tail end. Nevertheless, it beats yesterday. Yawn. Playoffs, here we come.
P.S: If this post seems abnormally long, don't blame Wondah.