The Los Angeles Lakers dropped their second consecutive game and suffered a third overall loss through five games in the NBA restart when they were defeated by the Houston Rockets 113-97.
The team was without LeBron James who sat out due to a sore groin, along with Alex Caruso because of neck trouble. It was apparent early in the game that the Lakers missed James’ ability to set up the offense and create shots.
Los Angeles tried to force feed Anthony Davis in the post, but Houston did a good job of doubling him on the catch and making him give up the ball.
Without James, JaVale McGee and Caruso, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel had to reach deep into his rotation and called Talen Horton-Tucker’s number. The rookie held his own in his first real minutes, and garnered more praise from Vogel.
“He continues to surprise and impress me. He’s making a case for being in the rotation with the way he’s performed in this whole restart,” Vogel said. “Obviously he had great growth in our G League program this year and has really come along. He played really strong, looked really comfortable against a very good team.”
Kyle Kuzma echoed Vogel’s words, saying the first-year guard has much more room to grow. “He has a bright future. He’s super young, talented, great person off the floor. His best quality is he’s very humble, thankful to be here learning from everyone, is a sponge and takes it all in,” Kuzma said.
“I think as a young player on a team like this, with his physique and can get downhill and make special plays, it’s only going to serve him well just being around us every single day and learning. That’s important for a young player, especially for him. He’s super raw and has a lot of talent.”
Horton-Tucker finished the night with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting while also adding four steals. His play was encouraging and backed up what Vogel said previously about him during practices.
The rookie’s ability to drive to the rim and bother opposing players on defense will serve him well and these next few games will go a long way in his development.
Vogel leaving open possibility of rotation changes
With the No. 1 seed locked up, Vogel has some flexibility with the roster and who he decides to play.
Obviously, the Lakers will want their main rotation guys to get acclimated and up to speed, but the team has several new additions that bring different skill sets to the floor. In the playoffs, matchups will often dictate lineups, and Vogel would be wise to use these upcoming games to get a look at what he has.
“We continue to learn,” Vogel said after the loss to the Rockets. “They’re a unique team with how they play on both ends of the floor. We did some things poorly at times, we did some things well at times.
“You learn from the tape, put it in the game plan the next time you play these guys, learn to attack their switching a little bit better than we did. We had some good sequences and some examples of what not to do. And we continue to learn about personnel. We’re making decisions on a lot of new players that could be in the rotation.”
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