Lakers fail to get to .500 again after defeat to Rockets

The Lakers failed to upend the Rockets, who were then 16-52.

No matter what the situation, these Lakers just cannot get over the hump.

The Rockets took it to the Lakers early. And the Lakers took the forever staircase as they failed to get to .500 again. The final tally was 114-110.

I said in the preview:

“But the Rockets main rotation isn’t that big, either (especially if Şengün isn’t available). Hopefully, this doesn’t become a factor in the game (although, yes, Houston is full of board men).”

Boy, was it a huge factor. Sure, the Lakers didn’t have a rim protector but the Rockets seemed to get to the rim unimpeded. The points in the paint margin was jarring: 78-46.

The Lakers didn’t exactly come out with energy, either. By the time they seemed to realize they’re in a professional basketball game, the Rockets were up by double digits. No matter what team it is (these Rockets, the 1996 Bulls, the 2001 Lakers, the process Sixers, etc.), it’s never ideal to be down by double digits. Especially when the Lakers were struggling from the field all game.

There was a bit more energy in the second half. The Lakers were able to chip away the lead down to single digits early in the third. But these young Rockets went back to the rim three consecutive times to blow the lead back up. Same thing at the end of the third. Lakers got it down to five points. Then the Rockets drove in consecutive times with little problem. It’s just amazing how the Lakers defense melts when Davis isn’t there.

The Lakers got it down to four points early in the fourth. This time around, the Rockets, who had been shooting badly from three all game, made three consecutive threes. The Lakers just couldn’t get out of the hole. The game did end in a wacky manner. Los Angeles was down, 114-106, with 8 seconds left. Malik Beasley made a too-little, too-late three with 1.1 seconds. Then Houston threw the ball to Austin Reaves, who got fouled at the buzzer by Kevin Porter, Jr. The foul was upgraded to a Flagrant 1 and the clock was adjusted to 0.3. Being down five, it looked like the Lakers might’ve had a miraculous ending in play. But Reaves pulled the second free throw short so it didn’t matter (Wenyen Gabriel made a three that was way too late after the inbounds).

Houston outrebounded the Lakers, 50-37 (though Gabriel had a career-best 15 boards). Second chance points were also in favor of the Rockets, 20-10. Houston’s just full of young springy athletes even though their only real big man in the rotation was Alperen Şengün. Rockets did have 17 turnovers but they built a big lead early so it kind of canceled them out. And the Lakers couldn’t get anything going from the field; they only shot .374 while the Rockets shot over 52 percent.

Rockets had 7 players in double figs and they were led by Kevin Porter, Jr. with 27 points. The Lakers were led by Austin Reaves with 24 points. They needed better efficiency from their backcourt; Russell and Beasley combined for 7 for 23 (.304) from three. The Lakers were still aggressive going to the paint (37 free throws) as the Rockets don’t have a rim protector, either. But they missed so many point blank shots and they were more magnified late in the game.

So the Lakers lost to the Rockets, who are now 17-52. What a wasted opportunity yet again by the Lakers. Minnesota did lose so they stay a game behind them in the standings. And Dallas just went to overtime with San Antonio as of this writing. Nevertheless, the Lakers have to take care of their own business.

They only have 12 more chances to do that this season if they want to make the play-in. Maybe less if they’re not careful.

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