Even with Anthony Davis out of the starting lineup as he works his way back from injury, the Los Angeles Lakers have managed to stay afloat, winning four of their last five games without him.
Despite a recent skid, the Houston Rockets were a formidable test for the Lakers as they boast one of the league’s most potent offenses piloted by James Harden. However, Los Angeles was able to defeat them on the road as they clamped down defensively in the second half and pushed the pace offensively.
Head coach Frank Vogel talked about what he and the team talked about in the locker room after the first half and how they were able to find success in the third quarter, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I think we really… we talked at halftime and watched a lot of tape at halftime about what we’re trying to do defensively that we did not do very well defensively in terms of the scheme and how we were gonna use our double teams with both Russell and with James and we just didn’t do it very well in the first half, but we did a far better job of it the third quarter.
I think Kuz did a great job with some one-on-one sequences with Russell and I just think we just locked in better.”
Harden and Russell Westbrook are arguably the best backcourt in the league and slowing them down is no easy task for any defense, even a stout one like Los Angeles. Harden and Westbrook combined for 69 of the team’s 115 points on the evening, constantly getting downhill and finishing in the paint while also finding their shooters for open threes.
Despite their scoring performance, the Lakers put on a defensive clinic in the third quarter as they did a much better job of mixing up their defensive coverages on Harden and forcing the rest of the Rockets to make plays with the basketball. With Harden limited, Vogel also opted to put Kyle Kuzma on Westbrook to try and bother him with his size and length as the Lakers guards had issues challenging him at the rim in the first half.
The third-quarter point differential ultimately was the difference in the game as the purple and gold captured the momentum and never let up, a testament to their mindset and approach in the middle of games. The team continues to impress and hopefully they show the same defensive grit when they play the Boston Celtics.