LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers proved to be too much for James Harden and the Houston Rockets in Game 5, winning in a dominating 119-96 showing.
The game quickly got out of hand for the Rockets as the Lakers were incredibly sharp in the first quarter, racing out to a 35-20 lead. Los Angeles suffered a couple of lapses that allowed Houston to come back and make things interesting, but they ultimately pulled away in the second half and never looked back.
Despite being at a clear size disadvantage, Houston was able to make Los Angeles work for their shots earlier in the series. Players like P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington gave the Lakers some issues and were the primary reason the Rockets went into the series with the top defensive rating.
Game 5 saw the typical chippiness that comes with postseason basketball, with players from both sides complaining about calls. According to Ben Golliver of The Washington Post, James in particular seemed annoyed with how Houston responded to that:
Lakers’ LeBron James to Rockets’ Robert Covington: “Y’all grabbing the whole f—-ing game. As soon as someone touches you, y’all got something to say. Y’all grabbing the whole game. Play ball.”
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) September 13, 2020
There is not much a defender can do when trying to guard James 1-on-1, but the Rockets seemed to have to result to grabbing and holding in order to keep the superstar in front of them. James has shown moments of frustration in the playoffs with how he has been officiated, but this time he felt the need to direct it at his opponent instead.
It did not matter much, though, as the Lakers had no issue closing out Houston in what was projected to be a more competitive series. Head coach Frank Vogel said in order for the Lakers to prevail they needed to play like the more desperate team, and they did exactly that.
Vogel on LeBron’s ability to toggle between scoring and facilitating
Even in Year 17, James continues to amaze with his skill and talent on the basketball court.
For much of the year, the All-Star has settled on being more of a playmaker under Vogel, but during the playoffs he has taken over games scoring as well. Vogel believes that James can pick and choose his approach.
“Sometimes he’ll give some hints and some clues to being more assertive, but to me, he’s always in attack mode,” expressed Vogel.
“It’s just whether he’s going to decide to beat the help or whether he’s going to use the help defense against them to get his teammates going. It’s never about a lack of assertiveness. It’s just about whether he’s going to decide to take on the whole team, finish and put up scoring numbers, or if he’s going to get everybody involved.”
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