After suffering another Game 1 defeat in the NBA playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers have revenge on their mind as they face a speedy Houston Rockets squad that continues to embrace their small ball style of play. Both LeBron James and Anthony Davis are expected to make even more noise than their previous performance, with James posting up 20 points and AD tallying 25. The Lakers were also held under 100 points in Game 1, which was the same case in the first round against Portland in Game 1. One of the Lakers biggest keys to winning Game 2 has to be the paint production and rebounds. These are two major factors in the Lakers success in the 2019-20 season and if the Rockets continue to neutralize these statistics, then Los Angeles will have a tough road ahead of itself.
Offensive aggression was on display from both teams to get the game going. Anthony Davis had 11 of the Lakers 13 points while Harden had 5 of the Rockets 9 points in the first seven minutes of the first quarter. Although the collective units struggled to put the ball in the hole, the stars were shining bright from the get go. However, as the quarter continued, the Lakers as a unit grew more and more into their defense leading to their offense. Markieff Morris was able to give LA a huge boost as he hit all four of his three pointers in just three minutes. Rajon Rondo also displayed his playmaking genius as he collected six assists in six minutes as the first quarter ended with a massive 36-20 advantage to the Lakers.
The second quarter started with the Lakers playing hungry on both sides of the floor. Extending into the end of the first quarter, the Lakers were riding an 18-4 run that catapulted the purple and gold to a 42-21 lead. LeBron was feasting in the paint in the first minute and a half of the second quarter with two field goals and two made free throws. This Laker team was absent in Game 1 against the Rockets, but the Rockets were doing no favors for themselves as they shot 36.4% from the field and had eight early turnovers. The Rockets were showing no signs of backing down to the rampant Lakers as they climbed back to a 44-31 deficit with seven and a half minutes remaining in the first half. This was unfortunately the only run the Rockets went on as the Lakers were both able to keep Harden and Westbrook at bay with a combined 3-14 shooting from the field with just 2 minutes remaining in the first half. This was contrasted with Anthony Davis putting up 18 points and 7 rebounds with LeBron’s 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in the first 24 minutes. If the Lakers want to put this game to bed, then they need to eliminate the easy looks at three pointers as Eric Gordon found his touch and drilled four three pointers to lead the Rockets with 15 points.
Eric Gordon’s fiery shooting continued in the beginning of the third quarter as he knocked down two shots from downtown as the Lakers stumbled out of the gates. PJ Tucker added to the Rockets barrage as the lead was chopped to six for the Lakers in the blink of an eye. The Rockets bossed the first three minutes of the third quarter as they raced out to a 14-0 run in that time. A series of back and forth successful offensive ensued, but the Rockets made all six of their three pointers in the first half of the third quarter. Still, the Rockets were pushing to try and regain the lead for the first time since the first quarter. With four and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter, Robert Covington three put the Rockets in the lead for the first time since it was 9-8 in the first quarter. The Rockets ended up in the lead with 12 minutes to go in the game, however it was a slim 92-90 advantage that would make for a popping finish.
The first two minutes of the fourth quarter swung in favor of LA as LeBron James capped off an 8-2 run with an emphatic alley-oop jam, courtesy of Alex Caruso’s lob. Houston wasn’t caught napping and continued to shoot proficiently from downtown as they were 21-48 from behind the arc with just over six minutes to go in the game. A game-defying turnaround from the Lakers was enough of a challenge for the Rockets to be unsuccessful in overcoming, and their efficient shooting from the field was a major component (56.6% from the field). A resilient and energy-filled outing for the Lakers was enough to secure a 117-109 win thanks to a monstrous 34 points and 10 rebounds from Anthony Davis and 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists from LeBron James. The Rockets had very little help from their own dynamic duo as Harden and Westbrook combined for 37 points on 10-27 shooting from the field. Despite big performances from PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon, another issue for the Rockets was their bench performance as Daniel House had all 13 of the Rockets bench points. Eyes will be all over coach Mike D’Antoni to make adjustments when the Lakers and Rockets duke it out in Game 3 on September 8th at 6pm PST.