With authoritative gameplay, the Los Angeles Lakers ended their second-round battle against the Houston Rockets in five games. For the first time since 2010, the Lakers reached the Western Conference Finals.
“I’m really proud of our whole team,” said Lakers head coach Frank Vogel. “Good three point shooting support system and we’re really committed to the defense event.”
Six Lakers players scored in the double digits; forward LeBron James led with 29 points. He and forward Anthony Davis made 11 rebounds each.
Rockets guard James Harden led with 30 points and six boards.
The Lakers shot from 52.7 percent from the field and 51.4 percent in three-point shots. For the second consecutive game, the Lakers did not trail. As late Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn would say, the Lakers put this game “in the refrigerator.”
James noted that his mindset during this game is to be just as desperate to win as his opponent.
“I understand that in order to close our game, the team that’s down is gonna play very desperate,” he said. “If you allow that to happen throughout the course of a 48-minute game, they will extent the series.”
From the beginning of the game, the Lakers were ready to finish the series. Shooting accuracy paired with a strong defense gave the Lakers a 23-7 lead halfway through the first quarter. James led the Lakers offense as the team went 7-12 from behind the arc in the first phase.
Houston found their shot and forced turnovers, whittling their deficit down to seven points. The Rockets aggression frustrated forward Markieff Morris, causing him to get a technical foul. However, Houston did not make runs when the Lakers’ scoring slowed. Tensions began to rise as James boisterously opposed certain fouls the Lakers obtained. By Halftime, the Lakers were up 62-51 against the Rockets.
Double-teaming Rockets players proved to be effective. Davis mentioned how he learned the importance of executing on the defensive end.
“Defense win championships and in order for your to especially close out a series against a high-powered offensive team like Houston who are able to start whenever they want,” he said. “You got to be able to lock into a game plan on defense.”
The Rockets kept a competitive energy going into the third quarter. Los Angeles combated Houston with shots from downtown.
With nine minutes left in the third, forward Robert Covington acquired his fourth foul. Then the Rockets hit an offensive skid for four regulated minutes. In that time, the Lakers went on a 15-point run to expand their lead to a 22-point difference. Guards Danny Green and Alex Caruso made plays on both ends of the floor to keep their feet on the gas.
Through the fourth, foul calls would stymie James; this led to spirited exchanges between him and the referees. Houston guard Russell Westbrook and Lakers guard Rajon Rondo also jawed off at each other, ultimately leading to Rondo’s brother getting ejected after heckling Westbrook.
The Lakers now await their next opponent as the L.A. Clippers and the Denver Nuggets continue to clash.