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Game 3 Recap — The View from Houston...

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Have you ever been to a big beer party? The first keg gets iced down all afternoon, the CO2 gets set just right for the tap, and everything comes out perfect and delicious and good. Nothing like that first beer... Yummmm!

But then later in the evening, after things get a bit rowdy and silly, that first keg is tapped out and you get stuck hooking up the backup pony keg — which is warm and bland and the carbonation is on the fritz to boot. By this point of the evening, many people are getting sick of drinking bad yellow beer anyway — but you and a few of your debauched friends continue to power down the inferior product out of duty and force of habit and desire to absorb more alcohol.

Same party, same evening, same beverage — but instead of hitting the spot, that 8th beer is warm, flat swill that tastes like dog urine and leaves your mouth feeling like you have been sucking on damp socks in the morning... 

Game 3 against the Lakers marked the point of the party when the frosty, fresh first keg ran out and the flat pony keg swill began to be served. Rocket foam was blown at halftime, with the game virtually tied. A 24-14 drubbing coming out of the break and the Rockets were left barfing in the back seat, pointlessly chucking down glass after glass of lukewarm rat piddle in a vain attempt to recapture that happy Game 1 buzz.

The party's over, Rocket fans. Sorry about that.

Home court advantage has been lost.

The Rockets have been exposed on the offensive end, with wack job Shooting Guards Artest and Wafer unable to match the output of even a streaky and mortal Kobe Bryant. Yao Ming once again vanished in the second half, while PG Aaron Brooks proved singularly ineffective attempting to score the ball against Jordan Farmar (starting his first game of the season in the aftermath of the suspension of hard-checking Defenseman Derek Fisher). With the Lakers stopping Yao with limited doubleteams, PF Luis Scola was carefully covered, taking away the last of the Rockets' significant offensive tools.

In the NBA, defense is not enough. And the Houston offense is not enough.

Let's pay a visit to our friends in Texas to see if they agree with this grim diagnosis, shall we?

(Click through for more stuff...)

Click the headlines to read full stories...

(1)

Lost Their Headway: Artest ejected for second straight game, might be suspended

by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant stood at midcourt and froze. With every camera lens and every eye on him, he struck a pose and stood there, soaking in the moment and embracing every bit of derision aimed at him.

Bryant had made just two of his previous 12 shots when he nailed a long 3-pointer to end the third quarter, inspiring his mid-court performance art and offering a look at just the sort of play the Rockets could not match.

Bryant and the Lakers could not leave the Rockets behind as they had in Game 2, but they could hit the Rockets with bursts of scoring the Rockets could not match, sending them to a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals with a 108-94 win Friday night at Toyota Center.

"We threw up a clunker," Rockets forward Shane Battier said. "We just couldn't find ways to score in the third period. They were in control most of the game."

More troubling perhaps than even falling behind in the series, or wasting a night in which the Lakers made just 43.9 percent of their shots with Bryant hitting just 11 of 28, Yao Ming turned his left foot in the second quarter and finished the game limping. * * *

 

(2)

Turned It Over

front page from ClutchFans.com

The Rockets defense finally, for the first time this year, locked down the Lakers inside the arc.

Outside the arc? That was another story. Los Angeles hit 11-20 from downtown and used a big third quarter to take homecourt advantage back with a 108-94 win in the Toyota Center. Turnovers (17 for Houston to 6 for L.A.) killed the Rockets again.

The second quarter was the most symbolic as the Lakers went cold but the Rockets turned it over consistently and trailed by 2 at half when they should have been up by 5-10.

To make matters worse? Yao Ming was visibly limping in the fourth quarter from an ankle injury he suffered in the second. He's going to be doing running tests in the morning to see if he can go in Game 4.

 

(3)

Playoff Recap: Rockets fail to find their stroke, turn Game 3 over to Lakers 108-94

by Tom Martin, The Dream Shake

* * *
There were about three extremely difficult shots that were made over the course of the contest, and they were all by Kobe Bryant. Otherwise, it was a game of open shots made and open shots missed, opportunities taken and opportunities missed, and, lastly, ugly offense and even uglier offense. Though they did many things well, the Lakers did not win this game. We lost it in every way possible.

Kobe scored 33 points on 28 shots — that's fine. Pau Gasol finishes 4/11 for 13 points — even better. As for the other Lakers, there were plenty of solid performances, but nothing remotely memorable. The Lakers were by no means on top of their game, which says a lot about this loss.

In the second and third quarters, how many times did you see a wide-open Rocket miss a shot? How many dunk or layup attempts did we either miss or have blocked? Los Angeles can probably count their examples on one hand. When Houston closed out on shots and played good defense, the Lakers missed. But when we failed to rotate and left players by themselves, like Ariza and Farmar and Odom, the Lakers capitalized. The Rockets can not say the same about their performance.

To me, our fate was decided in the second quarter, when Los Angeles continued to miss shots, and yet we continued to miss our attempts as well. However, had jump shooting been the only deciding factor, we may have had a chance. But our bad habits showed up yet again as we turned the ball over seventeen times. L.A. took advantage and made their offense much easier by running the break. Again, we can't say the same thing about ourselves, as we only forced six turnovers. Unfortunately, the only area of the game in which Houston has been consistent this series is in turnovers. We've had at least 16 each game. And it has to stop. * * *

 

(4)

Some "Analysis" for Game 3

by MisterTerrific, posted to The Dream Shake

* * *
Pace is at 91 possessions, probably inflated due to some of the late game fouling. Anyway, this was the kind of game the Rockets thrive in. For reference, our season average was 90 possessions while the Lakers average 94 possessions.

Sadly, however, this wasn't the Rockets' game. If you saw this, you didn't need statistical analysis to tell you that our shooting was horrible, nearing Rafer Alston levels. The turnovers weren't helping either, as nearly 1/4th of the possessions ended up being coughed up and returned to the Lakers. In a game as slow as this, these possessions could mean being down 14 or being down 2 and having a chance to possibly take the game back. * * *

Bullet points:

* Hot start on offense in the first was fool's gold.

* Turnovers hurt.

* Ron Artest's shooting hurt.

* Same with Von.

* What happened to Luis?

* Same with Aaron.

* Defend the 3 better.

* Defense on Kobe was still good. * * *

 

(5)

No Layups: Game 3 Recap

by Raheel Ramzanali and David Nuno, 1560-AM, Houston

 

Raheel Ramzanali and David Nuno of Houston's 1560 The Game break down Game 3 between the Rockets and Lakers. Coach Adelman, Yao, Ron Artest and Phil Jackson make cameos to help the guys break it down.

 

** ADDENDA **

(6)

An Opportunity Wasted: Rockets trail, 2-1; worry about Yao, Artest

Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle/Chron.com

The Rockets did not just lose a game.

They lost an opportunity.

We'll see by the end of the day on Saturday how much else they lost.

For now, this was a chance that got away. They got the sort of game they wanted. Through three quarters, it was low scoring, and only with a late run and a 34-point fourth quarter did the Lakers get to their customary 108 points.

The Rockets held the Lakers to 43.9 percent shooting and Kobe Bryant to 11-of-28 shooting.

Yao Ming did an outstanding job defensively on Pau Gasol and put together a solid 19 points with 14 rebounds. Luis Scola and Carl Landry were solid in the same game, something that does not happen often. They even had Von Wafer sprinting his way back to the bench, high-fiving teammates when he was taken out of the game, as exuberant when coming out of the game as a gymnast waiting for her scores.

This was the sort of game they wanted, the sort they can win, the sort they will have to win to have a chance in the series.

They lost anyway, because there is no way to beat the Lakers with the offense they had on Friday. * * *

 

(7)

Game 3 Recap: Some quick points

by Brody, Rockets Buzz

The Lakers maintained control throughout, but not until the final minutes did I ever give up on the Rockets. Here's why:

The Rockets shooting was awful, so bad that I figured there was no way it could get any worse. In the 3rd quarter, when it looked like the rims would need replacing, the Rockets were 1-13 on jumpshots — but the Lakers still remained within reach.

Ron Artest will receive most of the blame for their poor performance, as he should — going 10-23 from the field including 1-12 on jumpshots in the first 47 minutes will send some heat your way — but Von Wafer's play was equally despicable.

Not only was Wafer 2-10 shooting and a liability on defense, but he also completely disrupted the offense. The Rockets badly needed penetration, but to open passing lanes for Yao and the other forwards. Wafer's play was so selfish that even Jeff Van Gundy — who is notoriously oblivious to everything — noticed and commented. * * *

There's still a chance the Rockets can win this series. The Rockets defense is based on forcing teams into jumpshots and tonight the Lakers made the tough ones just often enough to stymie each of the Rockets runs. Case in point was Kobe's three at the end of the 3rd quarter.

The Rockets don't steal the ball, they rarely get blocks, instead they rely on patience and effort. Kobe missed his shots, but the rest of the Lakers picked up where he left off. Shane Battier didn't change the way he guarded Kobe, in fact the Rockets didn't change anything at all.

That's why I'm optimistic they'll win Game 4. * * *

 

(8)

Lack of Talent

by Solid, posted to ClutchFans.com

The Rockets relative lack of talent compared to the Lakers was on display tonight. Silly, stupid unforced turnovers and horrific guard play was their undoing.

Artest shot 30% and though Yao may be struggling with an injury he was no ball of fire tonight. He looked really slow the entire game. The Rockets just don't have all the pieces to complete at this level. But the fantasy of the pitbull Rockets was good while it lasted. More like poodles tonight.

The Rockets must play way, way over their heads to win against the really good teams. I am proud they did in the Portland series and in game one of this one. However, according to statistical probability and league history, this series is over.

 

(9)

Credit Where Due

by Respect Roc, posted to ClutchFans.com

I think if we expect to be given credit for how well we played, we should also give credit to our opponents when they play well. The Lakers came out executing almost everything they planned well, in particular putting pressure on our perimeter defenders by hitting their 3s. They had 11 3s tonight compared to a total of 8 for the 1st 2 games.

They also defended us well, forcing some turnovers and, at the same time, limiting their own turnovers by playing in a more controlled manner. They only had 6 turnovers tonight compared to 13 and 11 in the first 2 games.

Kobe didn't shoot as well as he did the previous 2 games, hitting 11 of 28 (39.3%) from the field, although he did shoot some heart-wrenching 3s (4 of 6 tonight compared to 3 of 10 in the first 2 games), including a crazy one at the 3rd quarter buzzer. For the record, he shot 14/31 (45.2%) and 16/27 (59.3%) from the field in the first 2 games.

The Rockets did at least one thing they planned to do well, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds tonight which was more than the total of the first 2 games (6 plus 12). In fact, for the first time in 3 games, we outrebounded them - and by quite an impressive margin (56 to 43).

We dropped our efficiency and intensity offensively, shooting only 41.7% from the field (we were 47.8% and 45.9% in the first 2 games). As everyone witnessed, we had too many turnovers particularly unforced ones when we tried to rush things instead of being patient - although with 17 tonight, that was only 1 more than the 1st game and 2 less than the 2nd.

Yao missed some shots he normally would have gotten, probably making Artest feel that he had to try to pick up the slack since the rest were also having a poor offensive night, particularly Wafer and Brooks. That led to Ron taking 23 shots from the field but getting the same total (25) as the previous game when he took only 14 shots. The Lakers didn't really defend Yao any differently from the 2nd game, so his low offensive efficiency would have to be put down as just a poor shooting night, exacerbated perhaps by the injury to his left foot/leg.

Overall, we played rather poorly by our recent standards whilst the Lakers did manage to succeed in their adjustments, particularly their perimeter shooting and reduced unforced errors. Still, we were only behind 84-90 at one stage in the 4th quarter which, at least, showed the resilience we've all along demonstrated. The sad thing was that with the Lakers shooting only 43.9% from the field, this game was really one which got away. Without taking anything away from our opponents, it's probably fair to say that in the final analysis, we lost this one more than them actually winning it.

 

The Bottom Line:

1. WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!?!?!?

2. Lakers were not hitting on all cylinders but still won handily. This is not a good sign.

3. Turnovers were the difference for the Rockets. Defensive teams don't have a huge margin of error in that department. The Rockets must take care of the ball much better if they are going to win this series.