The Los Angeles Lakers look to even the Western Conference Semifinals series against the Houston Rockets in a very important Game 2 on Sunday night.
The Lakers — much like the first round — came out completely flat in Game 1. While head coach Frank Vogel attributed it to the amount of off time they had before the series began, there were still some clear miscues by L.A. on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, the Lakers struggled to hit shots and get to the spots they like. They shot just 42.2% from the field and 28.9% from three. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope discussed the difference in defensive schemes from the Trail Blazers to the Rockets. “I don’t see any difference,” he said.
“We are getting our open shots, we’ve just got to be ready to knock them down and be aggressive with our shots. I think we took a lot of contested shots. We’ve just got to be more patient, and if we don’t have an open shot, move the ball, drive it and try to space.”
Defensively, L.A. allowed Houston to do whatever they wanted. Especially James Harden, who after a poor Game 7 performance in the first round, came out hot with 36 points. He also got to the free throw line 12 times, something all Rockets opponents must avoid.
Caldwell-Pope believes it will be different in Game 2 having seen it up close. “They played at a great pace throughout the whole game. They were getting the ball up and down the court fast,” he noted.
“We knew that coming in but like ‘Bron said, it was a little hard to prepare for. We didn’t know what their game plan was. We just had to go out and compete to the best of our abilities. It’s going to be different Game 2.”
While there’s plenty to fix in the quality of play itself, L.A. also may need to adjust their lineups to better match the Rockets micro-ball style. Vogel had no plans to reveal anything ahead of time, but said that all lineups are under evaluation.
“I’ll keep my opinions on our lineups kind of close to my vest right now,” he said. “We continue to evaluate. We got off to a strong start in the game, so the starting lineup did have a positive plus-minus, but we’ll continue to evaluate what the best way to best way to beat the Houston Rockets is.”
One adjustment that may be made is Anthony Davis taking a larger role at the center position. He has resisted it for much of the season, but finally appears willing to play at the five.
Rajon Rondo also played in his first game in six months, getting 25 minutes in Game 1. Perhaps playing so many minutes allowed him to more quickly get back into game shape. It will be interesting to see how Vogel uses Rondo in Game 2.
A win in Game 2 is essentially necessary, as a 2-0 deficit against a team like the Rockets may be tough to overcome.
Lakers (0-1) vs. Rockets (1-0)
5:30 p.m. PT, Sep. 6, 2020
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, Florida
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Danny Green
PF: Anthony Davis
C: JaVale McGee
Key reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris, Rajon Rondo
Projected Rockets Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: James Harden
SF: Eric Gordon
PF: Robert Covington
C: PJ Tucker
Key Reserves: Jeff Green, Austin Rivers, Danuel House Jr., Ben McLemore
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