The Lakers gave up a golden opportunity to gain ground in the Western Conference standings, losing to the Houston Rockets 114-110 on Wednesday night. The absence of Anthony Davis loomed large, as the Rockets dominated the paint (78 paint points to 46) on their way to only their 17th victory of the year.
In what was their latest attempt to finally reach the .500 mark, the Lakers once again came up short in what many assumed would be a very winnable game.
On the second night of a back-to-back, the team stumbled out of the gates early. The Rockets started off red-hot from the field, shooting over 60% in the opening quarter. Houston’s efficiency was largely due to their ability to attack the paint against the Lakers’ small front-court. With 20 of their first 31 points coming at the rim, Davis’ absence was glaring.
While most of the team looked flat, Austin Reaves and other members of the bench did keep fighting.
Reaves tried to jumpstart the Lakers’ punchless offense with 13 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds in the first half. Unfortunately, his efforts weren't enough as the Rockets still held a double-digit advantage at the half.
LAL ended a rough first half with a transition 3 from @Dloading to trim what had been an 18-point lead at one point to 14 at 62-48.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 16, 2023
Lakers shot just 32.6%, including 4 of 19 from 3, and allowed Houston to shoot 54%.
To start the second half, Darvin Ham opted to start Wenyen Gabriel over Rui Hachimura to give the Lakers a bit more size within the interior. Behind the change and the three-ball finally going in, the Lakes clawed their way back into the game after trailing by as much as 18 points.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Houston played just well enough in the final frame to keep them at bay. Despite who did, and didn't play, the Lakers needed this one. And while they got close, they couldn’t pull out the win, which is ultimately what matters at this stage of the season.
There’s no spinning this one. The Lakers can't afford to give up games this late in the season when they’re still fighting for their play-in lives — especially against this level of competition.
The team can't hang their heads too low however, as they now head back to Los Angeles for an important five-game homestretch starting with another pivotal matchup against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday. Davis should be back, and if the likes of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving do play, the Lakers will undoubtedly need him as every game is now a must-win.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.