In L.A.’s four regular season meetings with Houston, the Lakers outscored the Rockets 127-80 in the fourth quarter.
After the purple and gold looked collectively sluggish in the first three quarters, the six days without a game rearing its head, the Lakers had its chance to show their fourth quarter mettle once again, as they trailed 70-67 heading into crunch time.
But this time, the fourth quarter magic didn’t come, and Houston escaped STAPLES Center with an 8-point win, taking home court advantage away from the Lakers just as they had from Portland in Round 1.
“I don’t know if we can play much worse,” said Phil Jackson. “But it’s not as bad as it seems. We’re OK … We’ll come back on Wednesday.”
It wasn’t so much the 44.3 percent field goal shooting overall that hurt L.A., but the 2-of-17 performance from three-point land as L.A. simply missed a bevy of wide open jumpers.
Meanwhile, the Rockets got a terrific effort from Yao Ming, who scored 26 points with 10 rebounds despite a fourth quarter injury scare, and Ron Artest and Aaron Brooks combined for 40 points to urge Houston on. L.A. was led by Kobe Bryant’s 30 points, though he needed 30 attempts to get there after starting the game 3-of-11. Brooks in particular gave the Lakers fits with repeated trips into the paint, and the Rockets as a whole played an excellent game to earn a well-deserved result.
“Give our guys a lot of credit,” said Rockets head coach Rick Adelman. “They came in with the right attitude at the very start of the game.”
To be fair, as Jackson said, the Lakers will have trouble playing with as little mojo again. Furthermore, they won both of their games in Houston in the regular season, meaning there wasn’t any panic – just anger – in L.A.’s locker room.
They’ll have their chance for revenge on Wednesday evening.
Seconds Rockets center Yao Ming appeared to be out with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Yao, however, returned almost immediately from the tunnel and went back into the game after banging knees with Kobe Bryant.
Points in the paint for the Lakers, 12 more than the Rockets. It was the (lack of) triples that killed L.A.
L.A.’s shooting percentage in a rather sluggish first half after the Lakers had six straight days without a game, during which time the Rockets played twice.
Points averaged by Kobe Bryant in four regular season games against the Rockets. He scored 30 points this evening, but needed 30 attempts to get there a day after missing practice with a sore throat.
L.A.’s three-point percentage (2-of-17).
Free throws made by Yao Ming in as many attempts, including 8-of-8 in the fourth quarter.
Points for Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks in the third quarter, including two layups at the rim that broke down L.A.’s defense. As a result, Phil Jackson inserted Jordan Farmar into the game for his first appearance.
Stitches it took to close a cut above Shane Battier’s eye after Vujacic caught him with an inadvertent elbow. Also the number of wins L.A. posted against the Rockets in the regular season, which had no impact on Monday evening.