The Los Angeles Lakers started the first quarter of Game 4 against the Houston Rockets steadily. They took a 26-22 lead at the end of the first quarter and brought the pain in the second quarter. They outscored the Rockets 31-19 and finished the half ahead 57-41.

The Rockets defense was all over the place throughout the game, allowing a lot of easy uncontested baskets in the paint and showing a clear lack of effort. They looked deflated through most of the game.

The Lakers took an 86-70 lead into the fourth, the first time the Rockets didn’t lead after three quarters in the series.

The Rockets tried fighting back and got to within 103-95 with 2:39 left after a 17-2 run. They got to within five with just under a minute left, but the Lakers hit the last two shots of the game to seal a 110-105 victory.

The Rockets definitely attacked the basket more in Game 4. They shot a total of 39 free throws compared to just 14 the other day.

The problem with only playing one style of ball is that if someone figures out how to effectively counter you, then you’ve got no recourse. The Rockets and their microball style is good, but things change in the playoffs when things slow down – especially when a team with an elite defense like the Lakers can plan for you. Even though they made a fourth quarter run, it was a case of too little, too late. They need consistent effort, and they’re just not getting it through four quarters.

The Lakers’ versatile bench also proved problematic for the Rockets. Role players that don’t get a lot of minutes, like rookie Talen-Horton Tucker are always ready to come in and play – a bonus when you’ve already got people like Alex Caruso who play at a frenetic pace all game.

Rebounding was a strength for the Lakers again, as they found themselves ahead by 14 rebounds at the half. They slaughtered the Rockets on the offensive boards (12 to 1) and second chance points played a big part in padding the lead. They finished the game with a 52-26 rebounding advantage.

LeBron James didn’t have to put on a scoring clinic this time, but as usual had his fingerprints all over his team’s success with 16 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and two steals.

Anthony Davis, the other half of Hollywood’s two-headed beast, led the Lakers in scoring out with 29 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon and James Harden combined for 65 points.

In the end, effort was the clear differentiator. The massive disparity in rebounds, second chance points, and fastbreak points were what allowed the Lakers to build the big lead and weather the fourth quarter storm.