ON THE EDGE
The Rockets are now on the brink of elimination after falling to the Lakers, 110-100
The Rockets fell to the Lakers 110-100 on Thursday night giving the Lakers a 3-1 series lead. Houston struggled for three quarters with points in the paint and defending the fast break. James Harden also shot 2 of 11 from the field and only had 21 points, that came mostly from the free throw line. The Rockets also struggled in the rebounding category, which the Lakers led 52-26, with Houston only recording one offensive rebound.
The Rockets allowed the Lakers to disrupt the interior of their defense by giving up 62 points inside the paint. Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 29 points by going 10 of 18 from the field. Even though Davis was not effective from the perimeter, as he is usually, 11 of his points were inside the paint and lived on the free throw line Thursday night. Davis also collected 12 rebounds versus the Rockets, which three of the rebounds came offensively.
Besides Davis having a great night, the Rockets allowed way too many open looks inside the paint. The communication looked completely absent for the Rockets defense, which made it much easier for Rajon Rondo and LeBron James to create for their teammates, as both combined for 17 assists. As Rondo and LeBron created, teammates like Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Alex Caruso flourished. LeBron even found Caruso in the corner for a three-point shot, which closed the game out.
The Lakers dominated the Rockets in fast break points, 19-2, but 17 of those points were scored off turnovers. The last time the Rockets turned the ball over like this was Game 2 when they lost 117-109 with 17 turnovers. Harden led the Rockets in turnovers with five, which was another problem for him, despite the double teams.
Mike D'Antoni was asked about double teams Harden constantly sees every game.
"They're double teaming every time. Those are stats that really don't mean anything, just as long as somebody scores," said D'Antoni.
Harden constantly tells his teammates to come to the middle of the court when the Lakers trap him in their 3-2 defensive set. When Harden is doubled, the middle of the paint becomes wide open for teammates to cut and find open shooters. The Lakers defense made it completely hard on Harden, which is probably the main reason why he did not take as many shots. LeBron made it completely known during his press conference after the game.
"James is probably one of the best offensive players we've ever seen in this league," LeBron emphasized after a win on Thursday night. "We're trying to not put him on the free throw line, and he's so clever that he still was able to get 20 free throw attempts. We're just trying to eliminate anything we can from him. Because he gets into the paint with his runners/floaters, he has his step-backs and threes in transition. He has his catch and shoot threes when off the ball. He's very tricky with his moves in the paint."
The only bright spots from the loss to the Lakers were the performances from Russell Westbrook, Ben McLemore, and Austin Rivers. Westbrook had 25 points on 8 of 16 shooting, including going 3 of 6 from three. McLemore had a perfect night by shooting 3 of 3 from the perimeter in 15 minutes of play. Rivers who had 14 points in 28 minutes, was the main anchor on the Rockets 17-2 run in the 4th quarter. Even though these guys played well, it was still not enough against the Lakers.
Despite LeBron only scoring 16 points, the Lakers still dominated the Rockets. Hopefully, the Rockets make the right adjustments and bounce back for game 5.
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