Without Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, the Lakers still jumped out to a 18-4 lead. The comfortable lead did not last long however, as the Rockets were able to chip away later in the first quarter and through the second to enter the locker room only down by three, 62-59.
The high scoring continued in the second half as well. The teams combined for 64 points in the third quarter, almost half of the Rockets 38 came in the aforementioned four minutes. It was a combination of the Lakers not being able to protect the paint and loosing their man that led to threes and the outbreak.
"There are a few times we lost our man and they made threes." said Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni after the loss.
Though it did occur a couple times, a lot of the Rockets points were scored when someone missed their assignment or were simply outplayed.
D'Antoni mentioned several times at his presser that his team was unable to stay in front of the talented Rockets squad. As the Lakers attempted to stick a body on a big man of Houston, the Rockets schemes and philosophy provided them ample open looks that they were able to knock down.
"They're good, you got to give them credit, they played well." D'Antoni conceded .
While the Lakers were shorthanded, it did not help their rebel cause that nearly everybody on the Rockets had a terrific night. Houston had James Harden score 31 points, Chandler Parsons 20, Jeremy Lin 19, Carlos Delfino 19, Toney Douglas 11, Patrick Patterson 9 and Marcus Morris finish with 9. It was very much a team effort for the home lineup, but their superstar Harden led the way.
When news first came down that Harden was traded from Oklahoma City, it was fair to say that many people were shocked. And while he is still farther away from a NBA championship than he was just four months ago, Houston has not been awful for him at all. It was clear throughout the game Tuesday night that his teammates trust him 100%, and look to him as their leader. Harden was probably not happy when he learned that he was being sent off, but I think he now realizes the opportunity that he has and is taking full advantage of it.
Another person who is taking advantage of his opportunities is Metta World Peace. With Dwight Howard out for a little while, World Peace is going to be relied on more and more to get it done in the paint. He did that while he was on the floor. Though he found himself in foul trouble early, and complaining to officials in the third, World Peace stepped into his role fine and got the job done. There was not too much more you could have asked from him Tuesday evening, as he finished with 24 points.
You could have asked for more from Kobe Bryant in the first half however. Bryant finished the first with just six points, but as some noticed on twitter and other social media he seemed to be more focused on playing team basketball. A rather weird strategy when the likes of Robert Sacre was getting 28 minutes. Something that was noticeable also however was that Steve Nash, who surpassed 10,000 assist (one of five players to do so), was not always looking Bryant's way. In fact, Nash seemed to be focused on creating scoring opportunities for himself by driving to the rim and making fade away jumpers from three to six feet away from the bucket. It worked out for him, he averages ten points this season and was able to top that with 16.
Kobe, of course, eventually got his in the second half and finished the night with 20 points.
At the end of the day, it was the Rockets size and depth that was just too much for the Lakers to handle. The Rockets scored 60 points in the paint while the Lakers were only able to muster 44. Patrick Peterson worked hard down low all game and his team is walking away with the win in part because of his efforts.
The Lakers can not take this one game and panic. However they can look at the upcoming two or three weeks and get nervous. They have to face San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Miami soon. It's been said for some time now, but now is the time for the ship to be righted quickly, because the seas are about to become dangerous.