The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets squared off in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Thursday night with the former having the opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
The Rockets were without one of their key bench pieces in Danuel House for the second straight game, and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel decided to make a lineup change, inserting Markieff Morris for JaVale McGee.
That change wound up being a positive one as the Lakers were locked in defensively all night, resulting in a 110-100 wire-to-wire victory. It marked the first time in the series the Lakers led going into the fourth quarter.
L.A.’s new starting lineup looked good early, starting the game on an 11-4 run. Anthony Davis led the way with eight points, seven rebounds and two assists in the first quarter and the Lakers were up 26-22 after one.
They added to that lead in the second quarter thanks to another lineup change by Vogel. Despite not playing a single minute so far in the playoffs, rookie Talen Horton-Tucker got some run and proved he belonged, serving as the catalyst to a Lakers run with five points, two rebounds and two steals. He was a plus-nine in seven minutes of action.
Alex Caruso and LeBron James then took over from there to finish out the quarter and the Lakers held a 57-41 lead at halftime. A big theme of the first half was the Lakers’ stellar defense allowing them to get out in transition as they outscored the Rockets 12-0 in fastbreak points.
Even though they went with a smaller starting lineup, the Lakers are still a lot bigger than the Rockets, and they used that size to dominate on the offensive glass in the third quarter.
The Lakers worked their lead as big as 22 midway through the third quarter, although they got a little lazy to close it out and Houston was able to cut it to 16 heading into the final quarter.
While the Rockets cut it to 14 early in the fourth, the Lakers responded with a quick seven points to re-establish their comfortable lead. Jeff Green had a chance to cut it to 11 with an open three, but he missed it, and then Rajon Rondo connected on a three of his own on the other end.
Houston again threatened a bit just over halfway through the fourth quarter and made yet another push to get to within 10 points with three minutes remaining. They got it down to five but began to run out of time and Caruso iced the game with a 3-pointer.
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