Houston, here's your
13 29 and we'll make it 40.
It was a total reversal for the Lakers, who throttled the Rockets, 118-78, Tuesday at Staples Center. Welcome back, Lakers, who sent a message and returned the favor. We played good, they played bad. The score got ugly.
"You would think we’d give a better effort," Houston's Chuck Hayes said. "I guess we just didn’t have it."
In the first quarter, [the Rockets] faded. In the second quarter they crumbled. By the end of the third quarter, they stopped playing entirely, as if they had boarded the charter and headed to Game 6 with nothing left to do in Game 5.
So much for the Rockets always playing hard, being mentally tough, and never quitting.
"We played just the opposite of the way we played last game," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "We turned it over. We shot it poorly. We forced shots, and when we got shots, we couldn’t make shots. It was totally different and it just snowballed." When someone asked about adjustments the Lakers had made, Adelman grimaced. "It was on us," he said. "We did it all to ourselves."
"We played just the opposite of the way we played last game," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "We turned it over. We shot it poorly. We forced shots, and when we got shots, we couldn’t make shots. It was totally different and it just snowballed."
When someone asked about adjustments the Lakers had made, Adelman grimaced.
"It was on us," he said. "We did it all to ourselves."
Not so fast. Give the Lakers some credit.
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Clearly, the Lakers had made adjustments: they weren’t going to allow Houston the same wide open looks from three, and they didn’t (Rockets 5-of-29); they planned on sealing up the driving lanes that were so clear in Game 4, and they did (Rockets 14 fewer points in the paint, 20 fewer free throw attempts); they planned to attack the shorter Rockets in the paint, and they did (30 points in three quarters for Gasol and Bynum). And so on.
Phil went big, and Andrew Bynum finally looked good. Pau was aggressive, and Kobe was was great. He didn't yell or scowl, for some people to complain about, but he was focused none the less.
How about this: instead of getting sidetracked by Bryant's scowl or about how Houston's Daryl Morey is going to revolutionize the usage of basketball statistics, let's look at the real story of this series, the story that no one is talking about: despite all of Houston's scouting and all of Houston's detailed statistics--and despite having two All-Defensive Team players in Shane Battier and Ron Artest--Kobe Bryant is averaging 29.2 ppg versus the Rockets while shooting .475 from the field and .391 from three point range and he has his Lakers on the brink of advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the second year in a row.
Kobe set the tone for the Lakers, and so did Ron Ron for the Rockets. Bryant was the "Stud of the Night," while Ron Artest was the "dud."
"I was pressing early," Artest explained. Deciding when to be a distributor and when to be the first scoring option was, he said, "one of the confusing parts [of playing] without Yao....[We] have to move the ball and move bodies," rubbing his hands on his head, as if he wanted to be sure it would soak in. No Rocket was good last night and neither Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola nor Shane Battier matched their Game 4 output.
Expect the Rockets to play much better in Game 6. Just as the Lakers lost badly in Game 4 and responded, expect the Rockets to. One loss only counts as one loss. The Lakers briliance in Game 5 doesn't mean the problems are solved completely. We will have to remain focused. We cannot play it too cool.
We went from sorry to starry in one game, but so did the Rockets for Game 4. Let's hope we close this out Thursday.