Lakers vs. Rockets In-Game

Inactives for tonight are as follows:
Lakers – Lamar Odom, Vladimir Radmanovic, & Javaris Crittenton
Rockets – Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry, & Steve Novak

Check out Phil Jackson’s pre-game on our video page.

As part of the 60th Anniversary the Lakers have brought back former Laker & UCLA star Jaamal “Silk” Wilkes as an honorary captain for tonight’s game. Jeffrey Osborne is also back for his 24th consecutive year to sing the opening night national anthem. He gets better every year.

Marge Hearn does the pre-game introductions for the Lakers instead of the Lawrence Tanter. Derek Fisher gets a resounding cheer from the faithful, but the guy introduced right after him (the guy that wears #24) gets a mixed reaction with more than a smattering of boos. Being that it’s a home game you can just say that he got booed.

First Quarter
12:00: Yao vs. Kwame on the tip. The Lakers start Fisher, Bryant, Walton, Turiaf, & Brown. Kwame goes high for the tip and wins it over Yao.

9:01: 2-0 Lakers on a Kobe layup. Yes it took almost 3 full minutes to get a score in the ballgame. Bryant was booed the first couple times he touched the ball, but it died down after that.

6:04: We hit the first commercial break after Luke Walton went flying out of bounds trying to save the rebound off a long Kobe missed 3 (which he did). Yao Ming has all 4 of Houston’s points, but one came on a wide open layup and the other on a mid-range baseline fade-away with Ronny right in his face. Kwame has done a good job on Yao so far and the double downs have been quick by Turiaf and Walton. The Rockets have had open shots on the kick outs but haven’t been able to get in a rhythm.

Phil mentioned in his pre-game that he was putting Kobe out on the wing and away from the ball tonight and he has taken the opportunity to go into scoring mode as opposed to the facilitator that everyone has been talking about.

5:21: Kobe gets a steal, but can’t finish on the contested break. As he heads to the line there are some scattered M-V-P chants. It’s not like last season where these chants were constant and deafening, but at least he’s not getting booed.

4:25: After Kwame’s first missed free throw the Rockets sub in Luis Scola for Hayes and Mike James for Rafer Alston. It appears that they want someone besides Yao to actually score tonight and are going with a more offensive lineup in the hopes of accomplishing that.

2:40: Our second stoppage is upon us after Ronny swats Battier into the courtside seats. The Lakers have a 17-10 lead (McGrady realized that he was being defended by Luke Walton) and while only shooting 40% they’ve held the Rockets to a paltry 23.5%. Jordan Farmar becomes the Lakers 6th man tonight.

1:35: Bynum and Evans enter for Kwame and Luke. Should be interesting to see how Bynum handles Yao, especially after Kwame and Ronny have been pounding on him in the opening 10 minutes.

1:30: That was quick. Bynum picks up a quick foul on a screen and Yao goes to the line.

End of the 1st: The Lakers take a 25-16 lead into the break after a Kobe iso resulted in two points. Kobe’s got 13 points, but the star of the first quarter is the Lakers team defense. All pre-season they’ve talked about it (and allegedly practiced it), but we haven’t seen any of it in the exhibition games. Guys are flying to the ball and even the easy ones have been tough for Yao.

2nd Quarter

12:00 Starting out for the Lakers in this quarter are Farmar, Cook, Evans, Bynum and Kobe. We’ll see how this second unit performs after a strong pre-season.

9:00 The Lakers lose the possession to a carrying call (the usual tight calls that fade as the season progresses), but they have been effective at clogging the lane, getting a steal on the last possession. The Rockets have begun making more of their shots, and have cut the lead accordingly. Bynum is a step down against Yao on the defensive end, you can see Yao getting to his spots easier.

8:16 Kobe gets a breather, Yao finally goes out as well, and Walton comes in. Now we’re talking second team. They scrap together a possession which Andrew finishes with a dunk. Andrew has talked about dominating when up against second team players, now is his time to show it as the Rockets pull even.

6:40 Luke maneuvers well to an open spot and converts. It should be his show when Kobe is not on the floor. His vision can make everyone else effective.

5:53 At the timeout, we’re tied 31-31. The Lakers have lacked imagination on the offensive end in the second quarter, more or less having one attack that either works or they go back on defense. The Lakers are shooting 12-29 and the Rockets 11-29, but they’re on the way up (hitting all three 3 pointers this quarter) and the Lakers on the way down.

5:50 Kobe, Ronny and Fisher return and Coby Karl gets in for Bynum. The Lakers have gone small with Ronny at center.

5:17 Luke backs in on McGrady. In terms of assessing what team the Lakers will be this year, having an aggressive Luke Walton, circa first half of last season, would be a major asset, rather than the one that ended the year limited by injuries. Ronny gets his third foul. It’s great that he gives nothing up, an attitude that we need to have spread to everyone, but the Lakers need him to be a bit more disciplined so he can stay on the floor.

4:04 Kwame continues to be effective on Yao. Yao gets good position, but Kwame reaches around to get the steal and then trails on the break for a dunk. That’s maximized Kwame effectiveness.

2:02 Mike James has been doing his job, hitting the open 3. The Rockets are also finding more openings in the Lakers defense as their shooting % continues to creep up. The Lakers have been helping with some turnovers on the offensive end, getting the Rockets some easier looks. Even though Yao has 11, Kwame has lived up to his billing as a thorn in the Rockets big man’s side. He has even shown some effectiveness (it’s all relative) on the offensive end.

1:28 That’s what the new fast breaking style is supposed to do, Fisher gets a 3 from the corner as the Lakers release quickly.

Halftime
Cook came on for Kwame to get maximum offensive potential, but Kobe drove it anyway. At the half we are tied at 43. The plus/minus for a player can be misleading in the information it leaves out, but for tonight’s game, it is an accurate picture. The Lakers starters are in the plus and the second team is in the minus. The offense and defense have been executed better by the starters. The most important stat might be the Lakers turnovers, which stand at 8. It will be important to keep that number down in the second half and force the Rockets to keep executing, which they have not done too effectively nor too consistently in the first half.

3rd Quarter
11:35: Kwame picks up a quick third foul on a questionable call. He’ll have to be careful on Yao for now as it looks like Phil is sticking with him.

10:42: Quick TO and Phil is not happy with this 6-0 run the Rockets are on to start the quarter.

8:17: Cook re-enters much earlier than he did in the first half after Turiaf picked up another hard foul on a Battier break away. Hopefully Cook can spark a fairly stagnant offense and not give too much away with Chuck Haynes as his target on D.

6:23: A monster slam by McGrady on a 3-on-1 break lights a fire under Kobe. He’s doing the “clear out” gesture with his hand just before he charges hard at the rack. Chris Mihm enters for Brian Cook and will apparently be playing the power forward spot as Kwame Brown remains on the floor. This gives the Lakers an extra body to double down on Yao as Chuck Hayes is his only competition.

5:43: I would like to write about what just happened, but it was too unbelievable. Or ridiculous. Or pathetic. Or whatever….

4:12: 62-52 Rockets as we hit another TNT timeout. The Lakers haven’t had it together at any point this quarter. Other than a couple of drives by Kobe no one has had a solid look at anything on the offensive end. Houston on the other hand continues to play tough D and create easy buckets on the break. Bynum and Evans enter the game to go along with Fisher, Mihm, and Walton.

3:35: Scola replaces Ming as Yao picked up a third foul. Andrew is now being guarded by Chuck Hayes and I expect nothing less than abuse from Bynum. Drew spent all summer abusing 6-8 guys in pickup games.

2:56: Awww… two possessions into the Bynum/Hayes showdown and it’s already over. Mutombo gets subbed in. Boo to you Rick Adelman.

35.6: Chants of “Kobe-Kobe-Kobe”. A pleasent flip-flop by the faithful.

End of 3rd Quarter: The Lakers lost the quarter by eight and thus are down by eight. Basically they ran the offense once, maybe twice and it wasn’t because they were playing that new fancy fast breaking triangle, it was just because they weren’t trying. The triangle can be so fun to watch when they execute it and it can be horribly ugly when played like it was in the 3rd quarter. The guys in gold ended on a short spurt of goodness, let’s hope it carries over.

4th Quarter
11:22: Good rotation D makes Battier force a 3 at the end of the shot clock that hits nothing but the camera operators. Good energy by the Lakers to start the quarter and Phil might have given them the pep talk I was looking for as they’ve come out and ran three quality offensive sets to open the things up. None have resulted in baskets, but they’re getting quality chances, stick with it.

10:53: Stat of the early 4th quarter – 13/26. The Lakers are shooting 50% from the line… sad, sick, and ugly.

10:24: Chuck Hayes just airballed a free throw. It makes me feel like the two points he has scored tonight were a pure accident.

9:42: Somehow Chris Mihm lost his left shoe on the previous exchange. A seven footer with no shoe to hold up his surgically reparied ankle is as good a reason as any to call a TO. It gives us a chance to get Walton, Turiaf, and Fish back into the lineup with Kobe & Andrew.

8:12: Kobe goes down in a heap, but once again the offense was abandoned from the jump and resulted in him playing a 1 on 3 game with the Rockets front line. The deficit is 14 and if they don’t go on a run quick it’s gonna get away from them.

6:39: Back-to-back breaks started by steals. Both have resulted in two foul shots when both could have resulted in an easy bucket if Kobe would just make a pass. I’d rather see the easy two than the circus shot with a possible three point play. 30 points thus far for the Bean, but that’s on 10/28 shooting and 5 turnovers tacked on for flavor. The lead is 8 in favor of Houston as Kobe only converts 1 of 2.

4:30: Bynum gets hit with a blocking foul that I thought was a weak call. Kwame in to replace him. Wow another quick ticky tack whistle. This time on Kobe. T-Mac to the line trying to extend the 6-point lead. He sinks both to push it to 8, before Ronny answers with a thundering dunk.

1:55: 10 down with less than two left and the LA Exodus is on. Houston breaks the trap easily and uses all the clock before Yao sinks from the baseline. Even the 40-year Old Virgin takes leave of his courtside seat and calls it a night. Charlie Sheen is hanging tough till the end and gives me yet another reason to admire his general life choices.

35.6: A late surge cut the lead to 4 points and gave those that have stayed a reason to be excited. Jordan gets hit with a foul that might not have been warrented and Mike James bricks a couple free throws to kee the lead at 4. Kobe drives for an easy two and with 24.9 left Houston is gripping at two point lead. Adelman calls a frantic TO.

13.9: STEAL BY FISH followed by Fish draining a long two to tie, followed by Battier draining a 3 to take the lead back. 2.5 seconds left down by 3. The Lakers call a TO and will inbound on the offensive side of the floor.

1.3: Battier commits the quick foul as Kobe throws up a prayer, but the refs say he wasn’t in the act of shooting so it’s just two shots for the penalty. That could have gone the other way and no one would have complained, not even the Rockets.

Game Over: Rockets 95, Lakers 93
Kobe made the first then put up a great effort as he missed the second free throw on purpose then got his own rebound and got hacked, but not enough for the refs to make the call. The Lakers end up going down after all, but not by as much as it seemed they would with just three minutes to go. A disappointing way to finish it out.