Rockets Control the Paint to Beat Shorthanded Lakers

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In a game that could have gotten them to .500 on the season but without Anthony Davis to lead them, the Lakers could not overcome their lack of size and fell to the Rockets 114-110 on Wednesday night.

Playing on the 2nd night of a back-to-back, the Lakers were a step behind the eager-to-attack Rockets most of the night, succumbing to their assaults on the paint via straight-line drives, post ups, and offensive rebounds. Of the Rockets 114 total points, 78 of them came in the paint — compared to 46 for the Lakers — to go along with 16 offensive rebounds that led to 20 second chance points.

After the game, Coach Ham spoke to the team’s approach and how it left them vulnerable to what the Rockets were doing, particularly on offense:

“We’ve talked about it and said this before games, after games, non-game days: energy, effort, and urgency. I thought coming out of the gates, that kind of was nonexistent”, Ham said. “I saw it on their part. Regardless of what their record is, they came to play. They made us feel them, in terms of them attacking the paint, them getting hits, them getting offensive rebounds… we should have been the ones playing with that type of edge.”

No one exemplified this more than Kevin Porter Jr., who led the Rockets both in scoring and in his approach to continue to seek out the rim for his shot attempts. Porter attempted five three-pointers on the night (making two of them), but his other 12 attempts from the field all came in the paint, converting on nine of them to score his game-high 27 points to go along with nine rebounds and six assists.

On the Lakers side, Austin Reaves led the way with 24 points on 6-14 shooting from the field (1-7 from behind the arc) and 11-13 from the foul line. Reaves did a good job of working inside the arc, attacking the paint in isolation matchups vs. a Houston defense that did a lot of switching. On many possessions, Austin leveraged his individual shot creation skills to generate advantage, and then turn that into a makable shot or a foul that sent him to the line for free throws.

D’Angelo Russell and Dennis Schröder contributed 18 and 16 points respectively, but struggled with their shooting efficiency, combining to hit eight of their 27 attempts from the field and relying on the foul line (15-18 combined) to provide their scoring a boost. Jarred Vanderbilt, meanwhile, contributed a double-double with 13 points and a team-high 10 rebounds to go along with five assists on the night.

Most of this individual production from Reaves, Russell, Schröder, and Vanderbilt came in the 2nd half where the Lakers actually outscored the Rockets by 10 points and made a key push in the 3rd period and the first part of the 4th quarter to get the game within single digits. But every time the Lakers got the score close enough where it looked like they could get over the hump, Houston made the necessary plays to keep the Lakers at arm’s distance and seize momentum of the game back.

So, the Lakers head home from their two-game road trip with a split. They’re not yet back to .500, but will have a chance to get one game closer when they’re back in action on Friday when the Mavericks visit Los Angeles.