The Lakers fought hard, scrapping for possessions and never giving up despite being outmanned and generally out...talented at every turn. It was a truly noble effort, one that surprisingly resulted in a Lakers lead.
Too bad that was only for the first half.
LA fell in Houston tonight, 113-99, losing their ninth in the last ten games. It hasn't been so much that the team' has lost--it's how bad they've looked in nearly every one. Tonight's game against the Rockets was the Lakers's seventh loss in that stretch by double digits, an unfortunate distinction considering just how hard this hobbled team is playing. The Lake Show only had nine healthy bodies tonight, with everyone, including the exiled Chris Kaman, chipping in major minutes. Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks played well, offensively anyway, both scoring 21 points with a decent amount of efficiency. The former spearheaded a great rebounding night for the squad, only slightly losing a rebounding battle that they've recently gotten blasted in. Meanwhile, Nick Young played despite a bad back, dropping 25 points off the bench. The Lakers played with their trademark energy, showing no fear in the face of Dwight Howard and one of the league's highest scoring teams. The energy was so good, in fact, that they raced to a five point halftime lead.
And that's where the good news ends.
The Rockets destroyed the Lakers in the second half, outscoring them by 19 points. The effort was led by James Harden, who diced up LA for 38 points on 23 shots in a ridiculously efficient performance. He got whatever shot he wanted all night long, most notably while driving to the lane versus a non-existent Lakers interior defense. While his offense left much to be desired (5 for 14 from the field, 10 for 23 from the free throw line), Howard was his fantastic defensive self with 13 board, 4 steals and a block.
The Lakers weren't absolutely toasted by the Rockets, yielding less than 50% shooting when that should have been the benchmark that Houston was shooting for. It's not for a lack of hustle--this Lakers team plays to win. However, they just don't have the talent on the floor. There are too many injuries, too many limited players overextended in their roles and too few of the requisite personnel for Mike D'Antoni's system. Still, a loss is a loss, and with the Lakers hurtling down the standings, effort means little in the grand scheme of the season.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino