Lakers – Rockets Running Diary 7

Lakers FansRead about the Lakers vs. Rockets Game 7 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

Game 4
Lakers – Rockets Running Diary, May 10, 2009
Lakers 87, Rockets 99: Postgame

Game 5
Lakers – Rockets Running Diary, May 12, 2009
Lakers 118, Rockets 78: Postgame

Game 6
Lakers – Rockets Running Diary, May 14, 2009
Lakers 80, Rockets 95: Postgame

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

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

Early Signs To Watch For
First of all, look to see how the game’s called. If the Rockets are being called for pushing and reaching in the paint, it’s a really good sign for L.A. Second, look to see how Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant try to get Andrew Bynum activated on offense. Easy looks for ‘Drew early on always benefit his total game. Finally, pay attention to Gasol’s work on the glass … If he’s active on the glass, L.A.’s in good shape, because that signifies his overall activity level. But more than anything else, Game 7 is about talent and execution, because the effort’s going to be there for both team.

Undefeated in White
L.A. has yet to lose this season when wearing the Sunday and holiday white jerseys. FYI.

57467821First Quarter
12:00 Loudest this place has been pregame in a while. Game 7.

11:48 Ariza smartly cut to the hoop after feeding Bynum on the block, and got it back to draw two free throws (he missed one). At the other end, L.A. hounded Houston into a bad shot, which Artest air balled from three.

9:32 A great block from Gasol, popping out to contest Scola’s shot, netted Bryant a layup at the other end. The Lakers continued their blitz with another steal on defense as Fisher deflected a Brooks pass, and Ariza tipped in a miss. No. 3 kept it up by nailing a three, and very quickly, L.A. found itself up 8-0 as Rick Adelman took a time out.

7:42 Houston still hadn’t scored as Bynum swatted Hayes on the interior (0-for-8).

6:53 It took Houston longer to score than it took Screech Powers in the Max, as Brooks made two free throws after Gasol (who appeared to get hit on the arm) was fouled by Artest.

5:10 Ariza nailed a corner three and got to nine points, Houston with two, and the Lakers led by 11. What was more fun about that play was how Shannon Brown stood up and put three fingers in the air before the ball even went out of Ariza’s hand.

3:51 Before the game, we talked about how Fisher would ignore his shooting struggles, and two straight perimeter jumpers after a bad miss on his first one suggested as much. As Craig Hodges said, you can’t even think about the miss other than how it prepped you to make the next one. Lakers 17, Rockets 4.

Make no mistake, L.A.’s early success was because of some extremely active, effective defense.

0:46.0 Gasol’s offensive board was his fourth of the game, and he stuck it back (plus the harm) to put the Lakers up 22-10. Meanwhile, check out Bynum’s stat line in 8:41 of action: two points, five boards and two blocks. Gotta take that.

Scola managed two hoops in the paint at the other end, but after one, Houston had scored only 12 points as L.A. led by 10 heading into the second quarter. The Lakers, actually, struggled on offense after the opening minutes, shooting just 39.1 percent (9-of-23), but dominated the glass (17-12) and rode their D.

57467816Second Quarter
11:30 At yesterday’s practice, Phil Jackson talked about getting Pau on the move with Hayes defending to give him a better chance to score. L.A. ran a play that did just that, but Gasol missed an easy look in the paint. He made up for it with a strip of Lowry, which Farmar took the other way (in about two seconds) for a layup and a 24-13 lead.

9:03 Great move from Bynum on Hayes, for two in the paint. That’s a mid-January Bynum post move.

8:34 L.A. can come at you in a lot of ways when they’re rolling from an energy standpoint … As Gasol sits down, Bynum drops a baby hook and Odom a triple, and L.A.’s up 14. That’s deflating for an opponent.

6:52 Bynum’s been very, very good defensively in this one, chalking up another steal in the paint that led to a Bryant jumper. On the next possession, Bynum beat the Rockets up the floor, drew the foul and hit both free throws. Had enough? Hope not, because it was Odom finding ‘Drew with a nice lob pass down low that promptly found its way into the hoop. That gave him eight points, five boards, two blocks and a steal in 12 minutes, and if he’s rolling like that, it’s just a dangerously different Lakers team.

4:52 Von Wafer fist pumped after making a routine baseline jumper, plus the foul on Vujacic. Would he normally fist pump, or is it just because guys love nothing more than showing up Sasha?

3:30 The “Pau-is-much-better-when-active-on-the-glass” theory is looking good as he grabs his 10th, fourth offensive, and sticks it back to put L.A. up 43-24.

2:33 Ariza leaked out for a dunk after Bryant intercepted a Brooks’ pass, as L.A. continued a suffocating defensive effort. Meanwhile, we should acknowledge some solid cheerleading from L.A. fan No. 1, Jack Nicholson. Alas, when Gasol scored after another stop, the Lakers were up 51-26 (that’d be 25 points).

0:02.0 Houston’s 5-0 run to close the half was in part due to Kobe pulling up from 65 feet for three (going for the momentum hit he talked about in “Kobe Doin’ Work,” if you saw it), but still found the Rockets down by 20 points at the break.

Funny thing about the first half – Kobe didn’t play well offensively (but was a horse on defense) in shooting 2-of-8, but Gasol (5-of-10), Bynum (3-of-4) and especially Ariza (4-of-8, two threes, game high 13 points) picked him up. And to be fair, Bryant did net four assists.

57468099Third Quarter
11:40 Going back to the first half, Brooks’ jumper capped a 7-0 Rockets run to turn a 25-point lead into 18. But L.A. turned back to its defense to force a 24-second violation, and Bryant nailed a three to get the lead right back to 21.

7:59 Bryant had been lobbying for a call on Battier’s reaching in on his arm during a jump shot throughout the game, and finally got it. He made 1-of-2 to put L.A. up 59-37.

3:52 Ladies and gents, Andrew Bynum. A fierce follow-up dunk on a Gasol miss was the most explosive play of the playoffs from ‘Drew, and got him to 14 points with six boards and two swats, not to mention his general defensive presence that’s left Houston without an option in the paint.

1:58 As Odom and Farmar checked in, we notice that Jackson’s shortened the rotation tonight. Shannon Brown and Josh Powell have yet to play, and Vujacic and Walton had only 13 combined minutes in the first half.

0:47.7 Gasol drove right around Hayes for a deuce (13 points), then grabbed his 15th rebound at the other end. Artest managed a continuation hoop (Kobe’s face looked like Jack in “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH” form) to make it a 19-point game heading into the final quarter.

57468096Fourth Quarter
11:05 Though Walton started the quarter, Jackson replaced him with Brown to better match up with Houston’s Brooks-Lowry-Wafer combo, and Brown responded with an immediate hoop.

10:35 The Lakers would love to bottle up this Gasol, who’s been a monster on the glass, including another put back. How about 17 boards, including six offensive?

8:01 Gasol’s swat of Landry was L.A.’s 10th of the game, and typified the team’s effort.

7:37 Vujacic’s three swelled L.A.’s lead to 27 as Bryant sat rather comfortably on the bench. On the previous possession, Vujacic had picked Wafer’s pocket and sprinted ahead for a dunk. The game had been over for a while, but it didn’t hurt L.A. to get a guy who’d been struggling but can be important in the next round going.

4:39 Gasol was absolutely fantastic all night, scored again (21 points) and boarded again (18).

4:07 Bryant checking back in with the Lakers up 26, but left for good along with Gasol (who got a huge standing ovation), Odom and Fisher with 2:40 left and L.A. up 31.

0:00 Finally, the Rockets were dead, and they were given their due respect in postgame handshakes for a very, very impressive series effort. But I’ve said it all diary … It was team defense that won the day, led by L.A.’s two seven footers, who combined for 35 points, 24 rebounds and five blocks.