Playing the Rockets at home tonight, the end result for was a familiar one for this year's Lakers. The Lake Show turned in its worst defensive performance of the year, allowing a staggering 145 points on 57.7% shooting and tying the franchise record for most losses in a season (53). Despite the ugly loss at the hands of the Beard and his fellow Rockets, there was a silver lining for the Lakers.
After losing Kent Bazemore for the season, the Lakers got a healthy Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar back. While Farmar looked good with 15 points and 8 assists to go with his 3 steals, Nash was the real star of the evening. Handing out 5 dimes in 13 minutes, Nash passed Marc Jackson for 3rd place on the all-time NBA assists leader board, trailing only Jason Kidd and John Stockton. As the second quarter wound down, Nash provided a true highlight in a very sloppy game of basketball. It was an honor to be there in person to applaud and celebrate a momentous occasion for Nash, an NBA great and awesome human being.
Neither team showed much interest in playing defense tonight. The Lakers were repeatedly beaten by a simple pick and roll and both backcourts were able to get to the rim at will. The Rockets came out hot, building a 9 point 1st quarter lead before letting the Lakers back in. Although the Lakers drew within 5 at halftime, that’s when the wheels fell off. Their "defense" yielded an unbelievable 49 points in the 3rd quarter, watching the Rockets shoot 75% and blow the game wide open. As the Rockets followed up heat check threes with transition buckets, their 5 point lead ballooned into 15 and then 20 in a flash. The Lakers finally succumbed 145-130.
Even without Dwight, Houston had plenty of offensive firepower. No one should be surprised that James Harden blew up for 33 points (on 15 shots!) to go along with 12 assists, but Terrence Jones neared his career high with 33 points of his own. Chandler Parsons was a disruptive force for the Lakers defense, creating chaos with devastating cuts and slamming home demoralizing alley oops. Montejunas and Asik filled in admirably for D-12, each contributing 15 boards as the Rockets won the battle of the glass 58-33.
For the Lakers, Nash’s career milestone was the real highlight. Jodie Meeks looked great as well, scoring 30 points on 12/21 shooting and adding 6 assists. He was fearless on the fast break, leaking out to get easy baskets and finishing well at the rim. Swaggy P continued his impressive season with 32 points of his own. Although Kelly chipped in 18 points, the Laker bigs were mostly a no-show, with only Sacre pulling in more than 5 boards tonight.
In the face of another dispiriting loss, you have to admire the Lakers’ collective heart. Even down 30 in the 2nd half, this team never quit and worked hard to shave the lead down to 15. While most Laker fans are on board the tank train at this point, it is refreshing to see a totally undermanned team that still competes, even if it’s only for a half at a time. The Lakers have four games remaining, with three of those games against Western Conference playoff teams. It is very possible they won’t win another game.