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Lakers struggle to lift off against Rockets

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The Lakers looked flat-footed in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals matchup with the Rockets.

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Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers - Game One Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers had five games between the last game of their first-round series and the first game of their second-round series, and that rust showed on Friday night. After seemingly finding their rhythm against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers looked as sloppy as they have all season and lost to the Houston Rockets 112-97 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Going into the series, the general fear among Lakers fans was that the Rockets were going to catch fire from behind the 3-point line and make life hard on the Lakers, who have played big all season long. That wasn’t the case on Friday.

As a team, the Rockets 35.9% from behind the arc on 39 attempts. That’s not all that impressive. The problem is that the Lakers weren’t nearly as successful with their attempts, shooting 28.9% on 38 attempts.

The Rockets also outscored the Lakers in the paint, which was unexpected considering the Lakers’ size compared to the Rockets’. However, it wasn’t surprising given how poorly the Lakers rotated on defense, and how reluctant they were to attack the rim. If they’re going to come out of this series, they need to stop settling for jump shots, especially ones of the mid-range variety.

Does that mean Frank Vogel needs to play JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard more? No, but it appears that McGee and Howard are in his plans — and if that’s the case, he needs to find away to take advantage of his two centers. He didn’t on Friday.

James Harden led all scorers with 36 points. Anthony Davis finished the night with 25.

The Lakers will go over the tape and try to bounce back on Sunday. I’d compare this to their Game 1 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, but the truth is that the Rockets are a better team and match up between with the Lakers than the Trail Blazers did. In other words, the Lakers have work to do. These two teams will meet again on Sunday.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.