Lack of 3-point shooting and inconsistent energy again remained themes for the Los Angeles Lakers in a 113-97 loss to the Houston Rockets, amounting to being swept in their only back-to-back of the NBA restart.
With LeBron James out of the lineup and Alex Caruso also held out, the Lakers looked to get Anthony Davis going early against the Rockets’ undersized frontcourt by feeding him the ball every time down the floor.
However, Houston and James Harden were able to take the first lead behind their 3-point shooting. Los Angeles climbed back into the game behind Davis collecting several offensive rebounds for easy shots at the rim, but still trailed as Harden got his way attacking the basket.
The Lakers’ small-ball lineup and offense began to stagnate while the Rockets bench was able to knock down shots from the outside. Houston’s hot shooting put L.A. in a 33-26 after one.
Although the Lakers took advantage of their size and cleaned up the boards for put backs, the Rockets continued to generate good looks from outside and maintained their lead. Harden re-entered the game and immediately drew a foul and drained another three to push the deficit to 14, prompting a timeout from Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.
Kyle Kuzma sparked a small run after converting on a tough and-1, but missed free throws prevented the team from closing the gap. Despite a 7-0 run near the end of the period, Los Angeles walked into halftime down 65-56.
The Lakers had a better start to the third, doubling Harden and getting the ball deeper into the paint to create some much-needed momentum. However, it did not take long for Houston to get back to executing, keeping Los Angeles at bay.
Without James, the Lakers really struggled in the halfcourt, often settling for tough looks. Meanwhile, Houston had a field day driving and kicking the ball to the open man, leaving Los Angeles down 94-79.
The bench unit did an admirable job of fighting, forcing a couple of stops scoring in the paint to force a rare Houston timeout. Markieff Morris buried a three to cut the Rockets lead to single digits, but Houston answered with an 11-0 run in the blink of an eye to hold off the Lakers’ comeback attempt.
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