BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
After a tough loss to the Lakers, here are the adjustments that need to be made
Sunday night, the Houston Rockets got a reality check against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers as they fell 120-102. The Rockets struggled in all categories of basketball against the Lakers. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers' bench dominated the Rockets throughout the course of the game. Houston failed their first actual test against a championship caliber team, but it's still early.
1) Turnovers killed Houston
It was an ugly scene as the Rockets turned the ball over 21 times while the Lakers capitalized with 32 points off those turnovers. The Rockets got beat in transition, which eventually lead to fast break points. Having turnovers against the Lakers is clearly hurtful to any opposing NBA team. James Harden, John Wall, and Eric Gordon led the Rockets' backcourt in turnovers, which was 15. In eight games, the Rockets are 10th in turnovers by having 14.3 per game.
"Two things for us were the turnovers and transition," Stephen Silas mentioned after the Rockets loss against the Lakers. "The transition doesn't have anything to do with us being together for a day, a month, or a year. Run back."
THIS PASS FROM LEBRON. 😳 https://t.co/1b2Nx0k5Ts— Hoop Central (@Hoop Central)1610329579.0
LeBron and AD were contagious in transition when it came to beating the Rockets down the court. James had success with outlet passes down the court to AD and other teammates or off defensive rebounds. The Lakers had 13 steals but their leaders in that category were Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker. Caruso had three steals while Horton-Tucker finished with four steals. The Rockets made a run with 1:33 left in the 3rd quarter until Gordon lost the ball because of good defense by Horton-Tucker, which led to Caruso diving for the ball and Horton-Tucker finishing at the other end with a dunk.
🧨& 🧼 at it again. (📺: @SpectrumSN) https://t.co/dUQKFjAtjx— Los Angeles Lakers (@Los Angeles Lakers)1610331410.0
2) The Lakers' bench outscored Houston's
The Lakers pounded the Rockets in bench performance as well, which helped them throughout the game. Horton-Tucker, Montrezl Harrel, and Kyle Kuzma hurt the Rockets in various actions and open shots. The Lakers led the Rockets' bench 54-35. Honestly, the Rockets would have had more support off the bench if DeMarcus Cousins wasn't ejected. Cousins was already 50 percent from three in eight minutes of play with six points and four rebounds. This is the second time Cousins has been ejected this season.
The Rockets struggled in their half-court sets because of spacing and the Lakers ability to close-out on shooters. In the first half, the Lakers used a 1-4 box zone defense to counteract the 5-out offense the Rockets used to create space for pick-n-rolls, pick-n-pops, simple cutting actions, and open shots. The Rockets had struggled to find their offense and getting quality shots because of the Lakers' defense. The 2nd quarter of basketball was a debacle for the Rockets as they only scored 25 points to the Lakers 40 points. The Rockets shot barely 41 percent from the field and 29 percent behind the 3-point line.
Lakers help-side defense was terrific in first half. Pay attention to Schroder and LeBron - Picked up the 1/2 toss… https://t.co/mG7joICBJQ— Alykhan Bijani (@Alykhan Bijani)1610329113.0
"Our spacing wasn't very good. [The Lakers] are a big team," Harden expressed towards the media. "When you don't over-exaggerate your spacing, you get caught in areas you don't wanna be in."
3) Divvying up the minutes is still a work in progress
The biggest problem with the Rockets' offense is figuring out the new schemes, correct spacing, and player personnel. Silas admitted after beating the Orlando Magic on Friday that it's hard figuring out who is getting the correct amount of minutes. Ben McLemore had 15 points in his first game back with the Rockets but only played 17 minutes versus the Lakers, which was towards the 4th quarter. When Danuel House comes back, it will become harder to pick and choose who gets minutes. David Nwaba didn't see any minutes versus the Sacramento Kings because of Wall, Gordon, and Cousins coming back for the Rockets' third game. As soon as House went on the injury list, Nwaba began to start in his spot.
If anybody's minutes should be revoked, it should be PJ Tucker's. Tucker's defensive rating has dropped insanely to 116.8 from 108.9 in the previous season with the Rockets. His stat line was completely blank at the end of the first half versus the Lakers. The 25-year-old Jae' Sean Tate should easily replace the 35-year-old Tucker at the power forward position. Tate is much younger and in eight games, his defensive rating is 105.7. Even though Tate is 6'4, he weighs 230lbs and was seen backing up James in the post for a score. Tate is also more versatile for the Rockets offense and fits the scheme better. McLemore and Tate should easily get more minutes than Tucker.
Tate out here making moves 👀 https://t.co/zb5iAHXyF4— Houston Rockets (@Houston Rockets)1610327493.0
Christian Wood is still a work in progress when it comes to his defense as he struggled against the Lakers. He is still trying to figure out the correct spots to be at on defense, meaning drop coverage and correct switching. Wood also struggles in one-on-one situations as 35-year-old Marc Gasol scored on the lower post. It's hard for Wood to stay in front of his opponent when on defense. Wood's defensive rating on the year is 116.8, which hopefully improves over time.
Even though Wood struggled defensively, LeBron still gave him props while he was taking shots at the free-throw line. Hopefully, that keeps Wood's confidence high as his season goes on.
“ok ok....hold him. hold his ass...[that] guy is trouble, hold him down.” love this. LeBron knows how good Christi… https://t.co/aGQ4zmP0CG— Rob Perez (@Rob Perez)1610330045.0
The Rockets are still a work in progress when it comes to the new offense and personnel. I am completely confident the Rockets will figure it out, so they'll be ready for Tuesday night when they play the Lakers again, and hopefully in the playoffs.
Silas adjustments for the rest of the season. -Make Jae’ Sean Tate the permanent starter over PJ Tucker. -Ben Mc… https://t.co/l55lUNC8LG— Zachary Allen (@Zachary Allen)1610333515.0