Micro-ball Prevails Again
The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Lakers in Los Angeles 121-111
The spotlight doesn't get any brighter than this. After stunningly trading away starting center Clint Capela for swingman Robert Covington, the Rockets added one more feather in their cap in regards to their micro-ball theory. Again, Houston did not play a player over 6 foot 7 and managed to do it successfully against a giant Lakers team.
The story obviously starts with how Houston performed on the glass. Conventional wisdom says the Rockets would be at a huge rebounding disadvantage against this massive Lakers team with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and JaVale McGee in the starting lineup. However, the Rockets managed to rebound pretty well as a group and only lose the rebounding battle 38-37.
And though Anthony Davis did have a dominant night (32 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 steals on 14 of 21 shooting from the field), Houston stayed discipline and maximized their own advantages in this matchup. For example, the Rockets forced 16 more more turnovers for the fifth game in a row and scored 26 fast break points. Houston also shot 19 of 42 from three-point range (45.2%) as compared to Los Angeles' 9 of 31 shooting from deep (29.0%).
On a night where the NBA universe predicted they'd fall flat on their face in fully adopting this experiment, they displayed what could be possible. Obviously, it's too early for anyone to have victory laps as the Rockets have only been playing this way for five games straight. The true tests will come with consistency.
Star of the game: In a game where James Harden greatly struggled (14 points on 3 of 10 shooting from the field), Russell Westbrook picked up the slack and relentlessly attacked the basket with a spaced floor. Westbrook tallied 41 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal on 17 of 28 shooting from the field and 6 of 8 shooting from the free throw line. The Lakers, as many NBA teams do, decided to trap Harden for the majority of the game, and Westbrook took hold of the lead role brilliantly tonight.
Honorable mention: You won't get many debuts as impactful as the one Robert Covington had tonight for the Rockets. Having just completed his physical in the last 24 hours and flying to Los Angeles, Covington had himself a stellar night, scoring 14 points on 5 of 9 shooting from the field and 4 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc. He was omnipresent on the defensive end with excellent rotations, weak-side defense, and deflections. Covington also had 2 steals, 2 blocks, and was a +16 in 30 minutes. He didn't get the start tonight, but he made a damn good case for why he deserves it next game.
Key moment: The story for this Rockets team over the last five games is how excellent they've been defensively in these fourth quarters. The Rockets allowed the Lakers to score only 18 points on 8 of 23 shooting from the field. The Rockets also managed to out-rebound the Lakers 14 to 9 and force them to shoot 1 for 11 from three-point range. It seems that as the game goes along, the Rockets figure out the communication and group effort required to switch and play this small. It'll be a trend to watch going forward.
Up next: The Rockets travel to Phoenix at 8:00 p.m. on Friday to play the Suns.