Mike D’Antoni, James Harden Sense ‘Desperation’ From Lakers
Mike D'Antoni, James Harden
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers were able to get back on track once again with their 117-109 victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 2 to even the Western Conference Semifinals at 1-1.

The Lakers came out swinging on both ends of the floor early on as they were determined to stay undefeated while wearing the Black Mamba City Edition jersey. While the duo of Anthony Davis and LeBron James paved the way offensively, it was the combined efforts on defense that ultimately proved to be the deciding factor in securing the win.

Los Angeles relied on a combination of zone defenses and trapping to prevent James Harden from getting his rhythm and forcing the others on the floor to make shots consistently. Although the blueprint for success worked out this time around, Houston does not appear to be worried about having to face this look the rest of the series.

Head coach Mike D’Antonio downplayed any concerns he had going against the zone and even suggested that the Lakers relied on that strategy because of being desperate.

“Different teams have tried it. We showed a couple things we could’ve done a little bit better,” D’Antoni said. “But at the same time, zones are a desperation thing that I’m not a big believer in. I think offensively we should kill it.”

Harden added that the Rockets are already well-aware of how they need to attack this defense.

“We’re so good that teams have to thrown in traps and zones and whatnot. We just got to do what we do. A zone or trap, it kind of gets us more excited because guys around me and Russ are going to have more shot opportunities and more opportunities to get going offensively,” he said.

“That’s what we want, because offensively, me and Russ are able to get any shot we want to anytime. We watched film on the traps, zones, things like that and ways we can attack it. [Tuesday] we’ll be better at it. Even in just this bubble we’ve grown. We had Covington and our new pieces for maybe a few weeks before (the shutdown), so we couldn’t really catch a rhythm on both ends of the ball. Now in this bubble we had training camp, preseason and regular season games to figure out what our identity is, and we found it. I think offensively, we can get any shot we want to.

“We’ve just got to do a better job, especially me and Russell, in ball handling and getting those shots, getting those possessions, so we don’t give the Lakers opportunities to get out in transition because that’s what they’re really good at. The more we can make them — or any team — play against our halfcourt defense, we have a chance. That’s what we’ve got to be better at in Game 3 and throughout the rest of this series.

“We’re excited. We’re more confident. Even though we lost, we’re even more confident that we have a chance, because we didn’t play well and we let some of their role players get off and make shots, get opportunities to score, which we can control. Our confidence has skyrocketed.”

The comments indicate that the Rockets are hardly concerned with the challenges of overcoming the different looks they faced in Game 2. Although there is certainly good reason for them to be confident given their track record against the Lakers, it remains to be seen if Harden can make D’Antoni’s game plan come to fruition.

Houston was able to find their footing in the third quarter to erase a 21-point deficit and secure a lead. However, the 17 turnovers and disappointing play from Russell Westbrook ultimately proved to be too much for them to overcome.

JaVale McGee, Dion Waiters uncertain for Game 3

The Lakers may be without JaVale McGee for Game 3 as he is still dealing with soreness in his left ankle. McGee was limited to just eight minutes in Game 2 before being ruled out. Meanwhile, Dion Waiters is doubtful because of a sore left groin.

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