The Lakers put together one of their biggest fake comebacks of the year before falling to the Rockets 135-119 on the road, taking all of the good vibes they earned by beating the Warriors on Saturday and flushing it all away on Monday. The Lakers trimmed a huge deficit down to 10 points late but never got it to single digits.
Anthony Davis and LeBron James played heavy minutes in that Golden State matchup and both were questionable on the injury report but played on Monday.
Davis had that scary groin injury on Saturday but was able to suit up on Monday. Still, whether a mix of the injury or heavy legs from Saturday’s double OT game, he struggled and didn’t close out the game, ending the night with 23 points and seven rebounds.
James ended the game with 23 points, six rebounds and 10 assists. D’Angelo Russell continued his impressive shooting stretch overall even if he struggled from beyond the arc with 23 points.
If exhaustion explains this low effort, I’m skeptical that playing again on Tuesday is a recipe for success, but the Lakers will have to do just facing the Atlanta Hawks next.
Despite fans clamoring for Jarred Vanderbilt to start, head coach Darvin Ham opted for his usual lineup of James, Davis, Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Taurean Prince.
The starters began slow and trailed by 10 early but settled in and once Vanderbilt was subbed in, the Lakers took a brief lead.
Houston’s Cam Whitmore got red-hot coming off the bench and had 12 of his 20 points in the opening quarter. The Rockets ended the first on a 7-0 run to take a 41-32 lead into the second quarter.
Things didn’t improve for the purple and gold throughout the first half. Vanderbilt got into it with professional villain Dillon Brooks, unhappy with an aggressive foul during a dunk and later in the second quarter, he shoved Brooks and was given a technical foul. Vanderbilt kept yapping and flicked the back of Brooks’ ear and was tossed for it.
Jarred Vanderbilt was ejected after getting into it with Dillon Brooks— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) January 30, 2024
With one of their best wing defenders out and the team giving a lackadaisical effort the young Rockets took advantage and led by as many as 21 in the first half.
Things went from bad to worse in the third quarter as the Lakers' deficit ballooned to 30. The Lakers went on a bit of a run in the fourth, as Darvin Ham kept his starters in the game, except for Davis who sat the entirety of the fourth.
The Lakers got within 10 and kept the fourth watchable but never made a legitimate threat of winning this game. With a little over two minutes left Ham finally waived the white flag and emptied the bench.
What a stinker.
Effort was clearly lacking and any hope of the Lakers turning this game around evaporated when Vanderbilt was ejected.
You understand why there was a letdown after a tough Saturday win versus Golden State, but even so, this is inexcusable. Lakers can’t afford to lose games to subpar teams this late in the season if they want to guarantee themselves a playoff spot.
Things won’t get easier as L.A. has another game on Tuesday versus Atlanta.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.