The Los Angeles Lakers came out strong but ultimately faded in a 112-97 loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals matchup. It’s a second consecutive series the Lakers have opened with a loss.
The Lakers got off to a solid start, opening with a 7-0 run before the Rockets answered with a spurt of their own. James Harden started to find his groove with drives to the rim and drew a shooting foul from beyond the arc to knot up the game 12-12.
Rajon Rondo made his bubble debut but had a rough start, missing his first jumper and turning the ball over, which led to a Harden 3. LeBron James returned in the closing minutes to help settle things down but the Lakers found themselves down 29-28 after one.
Austin Rivers opened the second with back-to-back 3s to extend Houston’s lead, but Alex Caruso went on a quick 5-0 run of his own to keep Los Angeles close. Harden feasted on the lack of rim protection, getting to the basket for consecutive and-1 opportunities to keep the Rockets well ahead.
Anthony Davis began to assert himself with Harden single covering him, scoring on three consecutive trips. That, coupled with a Rondo transition layup forced a Rockets timeout. Despite the spurt, Harden and Westbrook went to work attacking the teeth of the Laker defense and the Rockets took a 63-55 lead into halftime.
Los Angeles got off to a better start in the third by executing on offense but Harden prevented them from closing the gap. James provided a highlight play blocking Russell Westbrook and finishing a tough layup, but Houston continued to get the shots they wanted.
Although the Lakers looked better on both ends, turnovers were an issue as their carelessness with the ball allowed the Rockets to keep them at arms length. Westbrook knocked down a pair off midrange jumpers at the end of the period and Los Angeles went into the fourth behind 85-79.
The Laker offense sputtered at top of the final period as they were unable to get a quality shot off, allowing the Rockets to go on a 14-0 run. With Houston packing the paint, James and Davis were unable to score efficiently and prevented Los Angeles from making up any ground.
All the momentum was with the Rockets down the stretch as the Lakers simply had no answer for their dribble penetration and outside shooting.
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