The Los Angeles Lakers are continuing to put on consecutive victories against their opponents in the NBA playoffs, only this time the victims are the Houston Rockets. Houston’s dynamic duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook showed up against the Lakers in Game 3 with a combined 63 points, but an answer is still to be found for LeBron James and Anthony Davis who’ve posted a combined 62 points and 22 rebounds in Game 3. The fact that guys like Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma stepped up for Los Angeles is scary because this team will be unbeatable if role players continue to step up with big games. The Rockets have concerns over the availability of Daniel House who might miss the remainder of the series for violating Coronavirus protocols. He’s been a crucial role player for the Rockets and helps D’Antoni’s team space out the floor with his lethal three point shooting. Another question mark for Houston will be their bench production, albeit their rotation is far shorter than the Lakers rotation. It’s glaring to see that, in Game 3, the Rockets put up 16 bench points (all from Jeff Green) in contrast to the Lakers 42 bench points. This Game 4 is extremely crucial for both teams because a win extends and ties the series for the Rockets while a win for the Lakers will mark up a 3-1 lead that is very difficult, but not impossible, to overcome.
The Lakers started off with their defense dictating the pace of the game as Los Angeles collected two steals in the game’s first two minutes. With their transition play and their running-and-gunning sort of offense, the Lakers were up early 9-2 with just over four minutes played in the game. What was quite unconventional from the Rockets were their three point shooting in the quarter as they shot a poor 20% from deep (1-5). Overall, the pace of the game was never built up as the quarter ended 26-22 in favor of the Lakers who were led by Anthony Davis’ 8 points and 7 rebounds.
Alex Caruso flexed his muscles in the second quarter to help the Lakers grab the largest lead of the game thus far. A pair of successful free throws from Caruso were followed up by an assist to Danny Green in transition for a three, but Houston were forced to take a timeout after the Lakers next possession when LeBron James found Caruse cutting towards the basket to finish the layup and put LA up 37-27 with 7:33 left in the first half. The Lakers then made an interesting substitution by bringing in Talen Horton-Tucker, the 19-year old rookie that got his first ever minutes in NBA playoff basketball. The point guard impressed with five quick points and two steals helping propel the Laker defense that translated to a blistering offense from the likes of Danny Green and Anthony Davis. The Lakers held a 49-36 lead with just under two and a half minutes remaining and they were showing no signs of slowing down. The last minute and a half served as an absolute clinic against the Houston Rockets as the Lakers ended off the half on a 8-2 run to solidify a 57-41 Laker lead. The Rockets had been humbled at the end of the half and needed to find energy within each other to galvanize the squad towards overcoming a 16 point deficit. The Lakers did a phenomenal job on defense by holding Houston to just 35.5% from the field and 23.1% from three point range and would need to emulate a similar effort in the second half to blow the game out.
The second half was a continuation of the dominance from the Laker in the first half. Davis grabbed 7 quick third quarter points for the Lakers to push the lead to 72-50 with just under seven minutes to go in the third quarter. LA was in the driver seat to cement the result of this game, but Houston knew that with a few stops and three’s, anything could be possible. Houston did allow for a push towards the end of the third quarter, but the glaring statistic that was against the Rockets was the second chance points. The Lakers had 17 second chance points while Houston were yet to register any points in that department. The quarter ended with the Lakers holding a 86-70 lead as both teams put up 29 points in the quarter. Houston looked like a defeated team even though the ending of the third quarter had a sliver of promise.
The Rockets went into the fourth quarter a defeated team but did not play like a defeated team. The Rockets went on a 15-2 run with three minutes remaining in the game to cut the lead to 103-93. The Lakers were facing a slew of turnovers that allowed the Rockets to creep back in and take a sniff at salvaging this game. A 23 point lead had snapped into an 8 point lead with just over two and a half minutes remaining to win the contest. A game that wasn’t supposed to be this interesting had all of a sudden become a fight for survival as the Lakers missed 10 of their last 11 three pointers. The Lakers did end up grabbing a crucial three pointer with under 30 seconds remaining in the game as LeBron James found Alex Caruso at the corner three to push the Lakers lead to 108-100. A serious scare for the Lakers was dealt with unconvincingly as Los Angeles took a 3-1 lead in the series with a final score of 110-100. The Lakers will look to close out the series in Game 5 on Saturday, September 12th at 5pm PST.
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