Game 1 of the Los Angeles Lakers’ second round series against the Houston Rockets did not go to plan. After keeping things close through the first three quarters, the Lakers were run off the floor in the fourth as the Rockets’ small-ball lineup dealt them a 112-97 loss.
Both LeBron James and Anthony Davis had solid statistical nights, but it was James Harden who was the best player in the series opener. Coming into the series much of the talk was about the Lakers’ size going against the Rockets’ speed.
Houston was able to equal L.A. on the glass while also coming up with 13 steals as the Lakers committed 17 turnovers overall. Overall the Rockets simply had more energy than the Lakers, but James believes seeing their athleticism in person will assist matters.
“They play with a lot of speed, obviously starting with the head of the snake in Russ. They play with a lot of speed, both offensively and defensively,” James said. “You can watch it on film (but) until you get out there you don’t get a feel for it.
“That’s what we did. We got a feel for their speed, and we should be fully aware of that going into Game 2. You understand it’s not just about the legs moving, it’s about the hands moving as well. They’re great with their hands. You understand that if you have a turnover, you can’t really relax. You have to get back, quick-twitch plays because they’re extremely fast. Especially when Russ gets it. You adjust to that by playing against it.
“It’s kind of like in the early 2000s when the St. Louis Rams, the ‘Greatest Show on Turf,’ and people always say how you can scout them but until you got on the field and saw Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk, Az Hakim and all those guys, it was like, ‘OK, we need to play them again.’
“There’s no way you can simulate that speed, so getting out on the floor and having a Game 1 gives you a good feel for it.”
The Lakers tend to play big lineups and their first-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers allowed them to stick with that. But the Rockets play no one taller than 6’8 and are flying around on both ends of the floor, making it difficult for the Lakers to get open looks on offense while finding plenty for themselves on the other end.
Though the Rockets aren’t tall, they are very strong with players like Harden, P.J. Tucker, and Robert Covington being very difficult to post up. Head coach Frank Vogel will have to figure out the right adjustments while LeBron will also be relied upon to make the right reads on the court.
James is one of the smartest players to ever play the game and the Rockets have no answer for him physically. The Lakers can’t match the quickness of the Rockets, but they have to figure out the best way to neutralize it.
LeBron, Anthony Davis welcomed extra rest before Rockets series
While Vogel believes a team that played in a seven0game series has the advantage over one who has been resting, his two stars were more than happy to get some additional days off ahead of their second-round matchup with the Rockets.
James noted that at this point of his career, being in his 17th NBA season, any extra rest he can get on his body and mind is a good thing.
Davis echoed those sentiments, especially about the mental break. The runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year noted how challenging it has been for the Lakers players to be inside the Orlando bubble so taking a break from the stress of the playoffs is a good thing.
Unfortunately for the Lakers that rest did not result in a good start to the second round, but they won’t have to wait long for the chance to turn things around.
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