The Lakers were unable to keep James Harden out of the paint in the first quarter (or the game for that matter), and the MVP candidate sliced up the Lakers defense to create threes and layups on the way to the Rockets doubling up on the Lakers, outscoring them 30-15 in the opening period. Josh Smith even hit a three pointer, making the prospects of a win look really dicey for the home team. The Lakers defense is always bad, but tonight their offense looked as bad to begin the game as many predicted in the preseason, and the team was only able to make 31.6% of their field goals en route to a quarter in which they barely outscored Harden, who had 13 by himself.
The Rockets increased their lead to 16 in the second quarter, ending the first half of play outscoring the Lakers 52-36. Aiding the Rockets was the ineptitude of the Lakers point guards. Neither new starter Jordan Clarkson nor the re-unearthed Jeremy Lin made a strong case for minutes, going a combined 1-10 from the field for 5 points in the first half. The Lakers turned Houston into a turnover generating track team, coughing up the ball 12 times, all while only making 16 field goals of their own. The only thing keeping this game from being even more of a laugher was poor shooting by a few non-Harden members of the Rockets, with Trevor Ariza's 2-10 looking especially ugly.
The Lakers made a tiny run in the fourth quarter, cutting the Rockets lead to as little as 12, but it was ultimately too little too late; salt in the wound to make this loss more painful. Just a few of the ugliest numbers on the night for the home team:
- Lost turnover battle 21-14
- Outscored 23-14 on fast break points
- Shot 7.7% on three pointers, only making 1 of their 13 attempts (for comparison, Houston made 13 of their own 44 three point attempts)
- Jason Terry played 21 minutes, perhaps the biggest slap in the face, given his reduction to garbage time/human victory cigar status
This was another ugly game for Los Angeles in a year full of them. The only Lakers that even played passibly were Wayne Ellington (13 points on 6-12 shooting) and Carlos Boozer (18 points, 9-13 shooting, 11 rebounds). Lin (14 points, 6 assists, 10-14 free throws) played better in the second half, leading LA's late run by forcing his way to the free throw line for easy points. After a strong starting debut, Clarkson crashed back to earth, needing 10 shots to score 8 points with 2 assists and 5 turnovers. Curiously, Nick Young went 0-2 in just 8 minutes, and with no injury announced one has to wonder why that was the case. James Harden finished with 37 points on 12-20 shooting with 5 assists and 8 rebounds in 35 minutes for Houston to further demonstrate why he features so prominently in the MVP discussion.
After two blowout losses in a row, an 8 game losing streak, and with the likely loss of Kobe Bryant for the year, the Lakers have reached their lowest depths thus far this season. Whether they start to climb out of this dark place or just sink lower remains to be seen. They next host Washington and Chicago with a real possibility to lose out to end the month of January. In spite of this hopelessness, this season is like a car crash, no matter how ugly gets, it is still hard to look away.