Lakers – Rockets Running Diary 4

LakersRead about the Lakers vs. Rockets game as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Game 1
Lakers – Rockets Running Diary, May 4, 2009
Lakers 92, Rockets 100: Postgame

Game 2
Lakers – Rockets Running Diary, May 6, 2009
Lakers 111, Rockets 98: Postgame

Game 3
Lakers – Rockets Running Diary, May 8, 2009
Lakers 108, Rockets 94: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Rockets: Tracy McGrady, Dikembe Mutombo, Yao Ming

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom, Gasol
Rockets: Brooks, Battier, Artest, Scola, Hayes

KobeFirst Quarter
12:00 As both teams continued to warm up, Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutumbo strode out of the locker room to a very nice ovation from the home fans. It’s certainly a shame to see over 14 feet of men in suits and ties, useless to their team on the court. Perhaps more of a shame is that Yao, so often a victim to lower leg injuries due in large part to his 7-6 frame, will have to deal with another offseason replete with question marks regarding his durability after he was perhaps two games away from making it through a fully healthy season.

11:45 Exactly the kind of play that should let the Lakers know Houston means business came immediately: Scola stepped out hard to contest a pass to Ariza, who fumbled it away to Artest for a fastbreak layup. Houston already had more FB points than in Game 3.

9:30 Houston was very active and aggressive on defense, forcing L.A. into four contested jumpers, all of which missed. Meanwhile, Battier hit a jumper and a three to give Houston a 7-0 lead.

8:31 Bryant crossed over Battier and pulled up for L.A.’s first points, which took 3:30 to get, before pulling up again in the lane for four straight points. Battier, however, responded with another triple, and it was 12-4.

6:16 Battier, who’d made just 3-of-12 threes (25 percent), nailed his third of the quarter to put Houston up 17-4. Ariza followed with his third turnover of the quarter, halfway to L.A.’s Game 3 turnover total by himself.

3:30 Houston can’t miss, getting four straight long jumpers from Brooks (2), Artest and Scola to go up 26-9. There’s a very clear element of “You’d better respect us, it’s not just Yao” from the Rockets.

2:32 With Dick Bavetta in the house, you knew the whistles weren’t going to be blown too often, and Houston was taking full advantage by pushing the Lakers all over the place. Bryant grew frustrated enough to draw a technical that would put Houston up by 15.

2:03 That’s something L.A. should milk like a cow: Gasol isolated on Scola. Easy bucket.

0:00 Bryant missed a buzzer-beating shot that allowed Houston to take a 29-16 lead into the second quarter. Two things explained Houston’s dominance: 1) More active defense; 2) More open looks on offense. It’ll be tough for the Rockets to keep up that high pace, but clearly the Lakers have to change their approach to the game.

ArtestSecond Quarter
11:32 Lamar’s lefty layup (nice alliteration there, right?) followed his glass clean to cut the lead to 11, but Wafer answered on the baseline and Bynum fumbled a routine bounce pass from Farmar. Bynum doesn’t have too many defensive responsibilities with Chuck Hayes in the game … Will he be able to take advantage of his size at the other end?

9:25 Six seconds after his second missed shot, Farmar was yanked in favor of Shannon Brown, with L.A. down 33-18 and still struggling to get good looks on offense. But a good defensive possession did get L.A. a good look in transition, and Brown nailed the pull-up J.

7:14 Houston responded to L.A.’s 4-0 run with eight straight points, capped by a Brian Cook three and Kyle Lowry and-1 play that both resulted indirectly from Bynum being out of position and not looking for the rock on offense.

5:19 There’s a lot of game left, which is why it’s funny to see some of the reporters looking at Southwest flights for a potential Game 6 in Houston … Meanwhile, the Rockets dancers performed to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” while wearing the black unitard. A little much. Meanwhile, Ariza continued to struggle by missing both free throw attempts with Houston up 16.

3:58 With the players Houston has on the floor, an offensive letdown seems bound to happen, but it just hasn’t … Scola hit another long jumper to make it 47-31 after Gasol scored easily on Hayes.

1:37 Big defensive mistake from Fisher, who helped off Battier on Brooks (who wasn’t going anywhere) and allowed the Dukie to hit his fourth three, stopping L.A.’s 4-0 run.

0:13.0 Another tough shot from Brooks, a pull-up J on the baseline over the helping Josh Powell, capped a 7-1 run to close the half with Houston up 54-36. Repeat: 36 points for the Lakers, who turned the ball over eight times, made just 2-of-6 free throws and grabbed only two offensive boards. In short, L.A. got outworked.

ARIZAThird Quarter
10:55 The lead became 20 for the first time all game right away, with Brooks getting all the way to the rim for a layup. The question that’ll be answered in about five minutes is whether or not the Lakers decide to make a championship-like statement about who’s the better team. Can they, will they offer the necessary effort. That layup, a Scola offensive board and an Odom missed three suggested otherwise.

9:29 Brooks for three, after a missed Bryant layup. The energy’s just clearly on one side of the floor today, as Houston led 61-38. Jackson looked for an answer in Andrew Bynum, who checked in for Odom as Gasol missed two free throws (L.A. was 4-for-9).

6:55 Back-to-back threes from Battier and Brooks swelled the lead to 67-40, and the Lakers looked all but dead. They simply weren’t able to match Houston’s intensity. They also weren’t executing their offense, as a product of Houston’s hustle, and Bryant took a contested jumper out of a long timeout, when you’d think L.A. would have something else drawn up. Not their day.

6:01 There’s your injury to insult play … Odom went up for a layup, came down extremely hard on his back and still got called for the foul. Jackson pulled him in favor of Josh Powell, who’s actually played extremely well against Houston throughout his career … Though a 28-point deficit loomed quite large.

4:30 After Vujacic hit a three and Farmar a fastbreak layup, Sasha rimmed out on triple that would capped an 8-0 run. Still, it’s important for L.A. to at least take away some of the confidence Houston’s built with its small ball squad before the game’s over.

3:05 Farmar hit a three, continuing his few-minute spell as the most effective Laker. Meanwhile, Bavetta continued his pursuit of the “Most touch fouls called in a game on one team” record.

0:00 Artest’s alley-oop to Brooks from in front of his own bench summed up the game in a nutshell, and put Houston up 83-54 heading into the fourth.

BattierFourth Quarter
10:08 Gasol hit 1-of-2 (he’d missed five FTs) from the line to give L.A. eight of the quarter’s first 10 points, but Houston still led by 23.

8:10 L.A. back within 20. What a weird sentence to write in the playoffs.

4:35 Houston obviously can’t guard Gasol on the block, and his layup cut the lead to 19. By the way, wouldn’t the last few minutes have been a good time to see if Bynum could find any part of his game?

2:48 Too little too late? Back-to-back threes from Vujacic and Brown (who’s been solid with nine second half points plus an energy boost) cut the lead to 13 at 90-77, forcing a Houston timeout.

1:00 Brown continued to bring it by hitting another triple to get to 14 points off the pine and cut the lead to 11. The Lakers would obviously go on to lose, but the fourth-quarter fight may at least cut away some of Houston’s momentum heading back to Los Angeles.