After another dominating performance on the defensive end, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves win away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
Since Game 1, the Lakers have found ways to disrupt the Houston Rockets offense with a mix of well-timed double-teams on James Harden and crisp rotations to the rest of their shooters. It is the second round in a row that Los Angeles has managed to slow down a potent offense that was projected to give them issues.
Through three quarters of Game 4, the Lakers were well on their way to a blow out as they got up by as much as 23 points. However, the Rockets mounted a furious comeback in the fourth quarter by going on a 17-2 run that cut the lead down to as low as five points.
Alex Caruso managed to hit a clutch three from the right corner that sealed the game, but it was a disappointing finish to what should have been an easy win. Despite the letdown, LeBron James was encouraged by the team’s performance and is confident they will improve as the playoffs go on.
“Obviously we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to close out games the right way. We got a big lead, we’ve got to be able to continue to defend, continue to put the pressure on their defense and not allow them to get back into the game,” James said.
“This is still a learning experience for some of our guys. This is A.C.’s first playoff run, this is Kuz’s first playoff run. We got [Talen Horton-Tucker] in the game and he was huge in his first stint in the postseason. And we want to continue to grow every single day.
“It’s still a learning experience for some of our guys but everyone works off me and A.D., and we just try to put them in position to be successful, and they try to do the same thing with us.”
The Lakers’ chemistry was a major talking point throughout the 2019-20 season as they gelled together much quicker than anyone expected and now appear close to their potential as a team. The Portland Trail Blazers were a good test for them in the first round and the Rockets seemed to awaken the extra gear L.A. flashed during the regular season.
These first two rounds have also been valuable learning experiences for Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as all three are key rotation members playing in their first postseason. Their development as the games go on will be crucial to Los Angeles’ success but they have been doing exactly what has been asked of them and then some.
With James rounding into peak form and a supporting cast who has accepted their roles, the Lakers are in good shape.
Frank Vogel implores Lakers to play like more desperate team
The Lakers have to feel good about being up 3-1, but were very close to losing Game 4 after a fourth quarter meltdown that saw them turn the ball over several times while also allowing open threes.
Historically, teams very rarely are able to come back and a series down 3-1, but head coach Frank Vogel wants his team to play as if they are the ones fighting the uphill battle.
“We’re not going to be comfortable playing against this team with the firepower that they have,” Vogel said. “We’re up 3-1 but we’ve got to stay the course and stay the more desperate team.”
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