Clutch City logo

Recap: Game 8 - Lakers vs. Rockets (L 120 - 102)

I was excited to see how the Rockets would fare against the Lakers, ostensibly, the best team they've faced so far this season. The Lakers turned out to be too much. Sloppy ball handling and poor shooting put the Rockets into an early hole that they never climbed out of. The Rockets finished with a season-high 21 turnovers and went 12-41 from three (29.3%). Even Ben McLemore, who finished last game 5 for 5 from deep, missed his first 2 three point attempts. The game had a level of physicality that this Rockets team hadn't seen yet this year. Markieff Morris was ejected early, and Boogie Cousins was ejected a few minutes later, though Cousins was ejected for less egregious violations. With Cousins out, the Rockets didn't have a guy who could come remotely close to being able to stop Anthony Davis. The way Davis played tonight, I'm not sure if there's anyone in the league who can stop him. Davis finished with an easy 27 points. Putting Davis and Lebron, who can still score whenever he wants, aside, the Lakers might be the deepest team in the league. Montrezl Harrel added 16 points off the bench, Kyle Kuzma added 13 points, and Talen Horton-Tucker added 17 points. To beat the Lakers a team needs to play close to perfect, the Rockets were far from that today.

1st quarter - Rockets -4

The Rockets started the game sloppy and flat. The Rockets' first 4 possessions were turnovers, and they ended the quarter with 8 turnovers. And the Rockets shot 27% from the field, shooting 3-14 from three (2 of them were from Boogie Cousins). And yet, the Rockets ended the quarter on a 15-5 run and are only down 4, I'll call that a win.

For the Lakers, Anthony Davis is so good, the Rockets don't have a single player who can guard him. Davis scored 8 points for the quarter, and he only played 7 minutes. Christian Wood collected 2 quick fouls - sending him to the bench and Davis sat shortly after. Thankfully for the Rockets, the Lakers weren't shooting well either.

Neither teams had particularly exciting offenses, apart from a couple of minutes from Davis, but the quarter was anything but boring. 10 minutes into the quarter, Markief Morris pushed Jae'Sean Tate, Cousins responded with a shoulder into Morris, and then Morris pushed Cousins too. After a lengthy review, Morris was ejected and Cousins was given a technical. I thought the call was correct, but I was happy to see Cousins stand up for Tate. The rest of the team was too, the Rockets went on a 9-2 run after the ejection.

2nd quarter - Rockets -15

The 2nd quarter didn't change the Rockets shooting fortune, the Rockets shot 2-11 from three. The Rockets also weren't getting back on defense, after rebounds, turnovers, or scores - the Lakers have 11 more fast break points than the Rockets. That was okay last game, the Lakers are much too good for that.

The Lakers are the best team I've seen so far this season. Davis might be the best player I've ever seen. He's big and knows how to play big, yet he can shoot threes and run the court. I'm not sure how to guard him. And Lebron can still score at-will. The Rockets would need a near-perfect game to beat the Lakers, and so far that hasn't been the case.

The "excitement" from the 1st quarter carried into the second. A few minutes into the quarter Cousins, unintentionally, smacked Lebron on the head, which landed him a flagrant foul. The flagrant coupled with his technical from the 1st quarter squirmish with Morris, landed Cousins an ejection. Cousins out of the game is a huge loss for the Rockets. Cousins still hasn't quite found his place in the Rockets offense, but he made 40% of the Rockets threes so far this game, and is the Rockets' only big body to send at Davis. After Boogie was ejected the Lakers went on a 26-13 run. The ejection also put the officials on notice, they called 4 technical fouls in the 2nd quarter alone.

3rd quarter - Rockets +6

Lebron started the half with a three, and the Rockets followed that up with an air-ball. That was representative of the first half, thankfully it wasn't representative of the 3rd quarter. The Rockets finally found their defense. It wasn't blocks or steals, but good half-court defense that led to consistent stops. The defense started a 16-2 run that shrunk a 27-point Laker lead down to 13, where it settled at the end of the quarter.


Harden started to find his offense - he started the game with only 11 points in his first 21 minutes but scored 9 in the 3rd alone. Wall's offensive game has been hamstrung, by Davis protecting the paint and Alex Curuso playing with a surprising amount of heart, but he was still able to find the basket a few times. Eric Gordon ended the quarter with only 2 points through 3 quarters. The Rockets poor shooting is a big reason why they've been down the entire game.

4th quarter - Rockets -5

The second unit for both teams started the quarter, and without Cousins, Montrezl Harrell went to work against smaller Rockets. Harrell scored 10 points in the 4th, most of them much too easy. The Laker lead stayed over 15 the entire quarter, and with 4 minutes left in the game, both teams cleared their bench. The Lakers were just too much.

Notes

  • Early in the game one of the clocks stopped working and we got a chance to learn about Tony Nila. He's the Rockets' equipment manager and he’s been with the organization since he was a teenager, working as a ball boy. What a neat story.
  • John Wall posted his first double-double of the season, he finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Christian Wood had another 20 point game, he's scored 20+ in every game so far this season.
  • James Harden was the "Frost Player of the Game".

Starting lineups

Position Rockets Lakers
PG John Wall Dennis Schroder
SG James Harden Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF David Nwaba Lebron James
PF PJ Tucker Marc Gasol
C Christian Wood Anthony Davis