For the vast majority of Thursday night’s game against the Houston Rockets, Playoff Intensity LeBron James looked a whole lot like, well, Not Playoff Intensity LeBron James. In the second half, though, he was able to reach down and grab just enough of that effort to help the Los Angeles Lakers pull out a huge win, 111-106.
James finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists, but for those stretches of the game that James didn’t have it physically, the Lakers’ youth did all they could to carry the team. Their shots might not have always been falling, but guys like Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma were flying all over the court and competing (finishing a combined 14-29 from the field), whereas veterans like JaVale McGee, well, weren’t.
It’s a good thing the Lakers traded Ivica Zubac to ensure that McGee would stop moping, that’s for sure.
Of the veterans who did compete, Reggie Bullock was a huge bright spot whenever he was on the court. He’s probably the only Laker fans might trust to knock down a wide open shot. While that will have to change and other guys will have to knock down those attempts, it’s good that they finally have at least one guy who fits that description.
Really, though, the game changed when Josh Hart was subbed in midway through the third quarter. At one point in that period, the Lakers found themselves down as much as 19, but fought all the way back and eventually took the lead late in the fourth. Given all the noise about where the chemistry has been with this team, that kind of fight was tremendous to see.
Late technical fouls from Chris Paul and Mike D’Antoni for yapping at the refs as the Rockets unraveled helped seal the game, and the Lakers were able to walk out of Staples Center with a victory. It was a lot better than the alternative.
At one point Thursday night, the Lakers were down double digits in their game and the Sacramento Kings held a decent lead in theirs. Those were some dark times. The Kings would go on to lose to the Golden State Warriors, though, so the Lakers now gain some ground in the playoff race.
The Lakers have a day off before their next game, Saturday in New Orleans against the Pelicans.