Saturday night the Lakers took on their former finals match up in the Boston Celtics and failed miserably. While no definitive reason for the loss can be certain, I assume much of the blame to his highness Kobe Bryant. Kobe had 41 points and no assists; almost as if trying to prove a point Kobe attempted to put the Los Angeles team on his back and never looked back. The more team oriented Celtics finished with a ten point margin win. Tonight in Los Angeles, Houston hoped to catch the Lakers at a low point in the season. The series was tied, one to one, and Houston has shown a considerably more focused game against the Lakers this season than any other team.
Unfortunately tonight, Kobe decided to include his team mates. Bryant’s 11 assists were not the only problem in Houston’s overtime loss, but they definitely didn’t help. Houston slowly fell behind Los Angeles in the first quarter with very little to be excited about. Aside from Kevin Martin’s generic performance, the Rockets were overexerting even at a ten point deficit. Kobe Bryant was not only finding his space and knocking down fade aways but he was also dishing out dimes whenever possible. When the third quarter rolled around, Rick Adelman had finally talked some sense into the Rockets. Houston closed the third quarter with six more points than the Lakers had been able to score and set the game tied going into the final twelve minutes. Chuck Hayes held down the paint by drawing charges and bodying up on Pau Gasol. Luis Scola was knocking down his midrange jumper with superlative efficiency and even Aaron Brooks was getting inside looks to complement his horrific 2-10 shooting behind the arc.
Things were heading the Rockets way for a while until Lamar Odom upped the ante. Lamar defended and rebounded tenaciously throughout the game and finished with 20 rebounds and 20 points (with two three pointers). The battle inside between Lamar, Chuck, Pau, and Luis was truly where the game was played tonight. After some consecutive Scola buckets the Rockets managed to tie it up with five seconds left on the clock. Chuck Hayes and Shane Battier managed to lock down Kobe on the final possession and force Lamar Odom into a contested three pointer that wouldn’t fall to send the game into overtime.
The next five minutes for the Rockets consisted of a good start followed by abysmal shooting. Rick decided to leave Shane Battier out of the mix for the majority of the final minutes of the game. I thought Kevin Martin did an adequate job contesting Kobe’s plethora of moves. The problem down the stretch for Houston was that aside from a few well coached plays, Houston was unable to knock down any shots. Kyle Lowry and Aaron Brooks both failed in overtime and while Kevin Martin had a good start, he ultimately failed to match Kobe’s scoring. When the Lakers took a late six point lead, all was lost for a defenseless Houston team. This is really no surprise for Houston fans as this was the Rocket’s fifth overtime loss out of five total overtime games. Without a consistent go to player in the clutch, the Rockets will be forever doomed to mediocrity.
Chuck Hayes’ stats may not say much, but he really was on his A game tonight. He was masterfully asserting those powerful hands of his in the low post and kept the Laker’s interior honest on the offensive end of the court as well. Luis Scola can be proud of his game tonight as well. While his post up game wasn’t great he was able to hit quite a few jumpers at especially critical times. Luis also pulled down a team high 15 rebounds. Both starting small forwards saw very little time tonight. Shane Battier finished with 5 points off of poor shooting and Ron Artest managed 9. Neither forward lived up to their competing ‘defensive stopper’ titles and neither player really made a difference.
Before tonight’s game, Courtney Lee was presumed to be inactive with flu-like symptoms. According to the Chronicle, Rick Adelman would be forced to use only our three active guard Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry, and Kevin Martin rather than give youngster and Houston newcomer Terrance Williams any rotational minutes. I can’t lie, coming into this game this perturbed me a lot. Not just because I think Terrance is a phenomenal player with true potential (which I do) but mainly because Houston’s general manger Daryl Morey brought him here for a reason and sacrificed a decent asset towards our future to do so. When a spot clears for Terrance, let him play! I’m starting to wonder if he might be cursed with his luck the past two seasons.