Houston, TX— Second half woes plagued the Houston Rockets, who fell to 1-4 in their last five games. In addition, they dropped their first meeting of the season against the Los Angeles Lakers, 124-115.
A Tale of Two Halves
Saturday night’s game was a tale of two halves. The first 24 minutes of play belonged to Houston (26-15). The team played with much more intensity and energy than Los Angeles (34-8) to begin the game. The duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook combined for 19 of the team’s 34 points and were able to do much of their damage separately.
Both guards were aggressive and got inside to convert easy layups. In addition, Westbrook seemed to be in a complete rhythm and flow to start out as he had finished the half with 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting. When he was able to play at his pace, he was able to take advantage of his mismatches and make the right decisions offensively. Harden also was able to do the exact same thing.
However, it helped that the Lakers in the first half were showing lazy double teams and not rotating quick enough, so each of them could make the pass to open shooters, who knocked down their threes.
Houston shot 7-for-17 from long distance in the first half. The Lakers’ only saving grace was LeBron James, who had 16 points, three rebounds and five assists and Houston’s nine turnovers. Yet, this season, Los Angeles has shown it can not only chip away at deficits slowly, but if they’re within striking distance going into the second half, which has been their half, they’re able to pull away.
Los Angeles outscored Houston 65-50 in the second half alone. Fans saw the switch from the Lakers and their opponent in that closing half. The Lakers were a different team defensively and their rotations, double teams and tempo on both sides of the floor was something that their conference foes couldn’t keep up with.
Granted, Houston went ice cold. In the third quarter, the Rockets only scored 17 points and went 1-for-11 from downtown. They finished the game shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc and 44 percent as a team from the field. Los Angeles played more aggressively, getting to the lane, drawing contact, getting to the line and picking up the pace. Houston simply could not keep up and it made it even harder for them when they realized their shots weren’t falling.
Los Angeles improves to 4-1 in the absence of their star big, Anthony Davis. With him not being in the lineup, it’s allowed the others on the team to step up for James. At the end of the game, it would be remiss to not mention the contributions of the others.
Here’s the difference between Los Angeles and Houston: depth.
The secondary guys for the Lakers tallied 93 points — 37 of those points came from the bench. James played yet another masterful game with 31 points, five rebounds, 12 assists on 13-for-25 shooting and 3-for-5 from long range. However, three other players from the purple and gold finished with 20 or more points: Kyle Kuzma (23), Danny Green (20) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (20).
In addition, the rest of the team shot 32-for-68 from the field. When a team is able to have its role players step up in a game — one where the team came out entirely flat — it makes things easier on James. He was able to play in a more comfortable style and not only get a long break to catch his breath, but trust that when he got his guys the ball they would make plays once he checked back into the contest.
Things like this could be beneficial for the Lakers down the line as the playoffs get closer and closer.
That’s the Rockets Achilles heel. Out of Houston’s 90 total attempts in the game, Westbrook and Harden combined for 43 of them. They did combine for 69 points in the game. Yet, look at the others for Houston in comparison to Los Angeles.
The others for H-Town weren’t in the same rhythm as they were in that first half. However, this hasn’t been a one-time offense, they do this many times. Westbrook and Harden had it going, finished with over 30 points apiece and it was great.
However, as a team when your stars are now asking you to do your thing because now we aren’t hitting shots or the double teaming from the Lakers is working, it’s hard to flip that switch.
That’s where team goes into cold shooting spurts, bad shots and decision making as well.
The Lakers will continue their road trip as they’ll face the Boston Celtics on Jan. 20.
The Houston Rockets will look to pick up a much-needed win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 20.