Good afternoon, folks. Mike D’Antoni got beat at his own game. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
Lakers use small ball against Rockets to take 3-1 series lead
The Los Angeles Lakers have two seven-footers on its roster; neither of them played in a critical Game 4 win over the Houston Rockets.
James Harden and the Rockets fully embraced the concept of “small ball” back when they traded away 6-foot-10 center Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks in February. That transaction also landed the Rockets a stellar wing player in Robert Covington, who would essentially come in to play power forward alongside 6-foot-5 P.J. Tucker at center. Since then, Houston has done nothing but play undersized lineups, and for the most part, it’s been successful. It earned them the four-seed out West and was efficient enough to move them past the first round of the playoffs. Coming into the Conference Semifinals, many thought this matchup could be a battle between the bigs and smalls, but what we got instead was the Lakers shrinking themselves down and deciding to pick on someone who they made their size, snagging a 110-100 win to take a 3-1 series lead.
The Lakers elected to roll with the 6-foot-8 Markieff Morris at center with Anthony Davis at power forward and LeBron James playing the 3. Centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard did not see a second of action as head coach Frank Vogel ran an eight-man rotation throughout the game with 6-foot-8 Kyle Kuzma as the tallest player off the bench. While the lineup was not “small” by any means, it took away the one advantage that the Rockets had: speed and agility. The Lakers beat the Rockets in transition points (19-2) and in second-chance points (17-3).
With Davis standing at a monstrous 6-foot-10 and boasting guard-like capabilities, he had a field day as the tallest player on the floor at all times. The former Wildcat finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks while shooting 10-18 from the floor. His only shortcomings in an otherwise excellent outing were his five turnovers, which he said after the game was the team’s overall downfall in allowing a Rockets’ comeback. L.A. led by 23 points with just under eight minutes left in the game but proceeded to turn the ball over four times, allowing Houston to cut that lead all the way down to just five points.
The Lakers would manage to hold in the end thanks to a clutch triple in the corner from Alex Caruso that put his team up by eight points with just 40 seconds left. That wasn’t the final highlight, though, as Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo pulled off one of the ballsiest (is that the right word for this?) plays you’ll probably ever see in an end-of-game situation, let alone a playoff bout.
Rondo went off the glass for the oop to Lebron to close out the game ?
The Lakers take a 3-1 lead on the Rockets. pic.twitter.com/jg661RdsQL
— ESPN (@espn) September 11, 2020
The Lakers were up by eight. Rondo had a shot at the easiest layup of the game. LeBron was essentially double-teamed. There was absolutely no need for this.
And yet, I loved every second of it.
Speaking of Playoff Rondo, he was back once again for Game 4, recording 11 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, and two steals on a 5-8 shooting clip. Aside from the turnovers (Rondo had three along with Davis’ five and L.A. turned the ball over a total of 16 times) that helped spur the late Rockets run, the Lakers simply look like the better team and have since Game 2. Rondo has played particularly great in the last three outings, averaging 14 points, five rebounds, and 8.7 assists while shooting over 60 percent from the field. With him, Davis, and LeBron all playing to the best of their current abilities, they’ve been able to completely control this series. This isn’t even to mention the Lakers’ defense, either, which held Harden to just 2-11 shooting from the field and doubled the Rockets up on the glass by a count of 52-26.
Game 5 is on Saturday.
Series standings from Thursday
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
(1) Lakers lead (4) Rockets 3-1
|Anthony Davis (LAL)||110-100 W @ HOU||29||10-18 (0-2)||12||5||0||2||5||+7||39|
|Rajon Rondo (LAL)||110-100 W @ HOU||11||5-8 (1-2)||10||8||2||0||3||-4||28|
TONIGHT IN THE NBA
6:30 (TNT): Nuggets (Murray) @ Clippers (Patterson) [LAC leads 3-1]
9:00 (TNT): Celtics (Kanter) @ Raptors [Series tied 3-3]