In our preview for Game 2, we noted that the Lakers can get caught out when they start games slowly. It seems like they listened.
Their start was anything but slow, a 36-20 first quarter that saw their bench erupt for 19 points. Markief Morris contributed 12 of them by hitting all four of his threes, and Rajon Rondo dished out six assists.
James Harden only had seven points in the first quarter, while Russell Westbrook had only two. Eric Gordon had none.
The Lakers used excellent defense in the first half to force a ton of turnovers. The Rockets finished with a total of X turnovers at halftime.
The Rockets briefly cut the lead to double digits, but the Lakers then answered with another big run to push the lead back to 67-51 at the half.
Anthony Davis had 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while Lebron James had 17 points, six rebounds and four assists at the break.
Gordon led the Rockets with 15 points, and Harden had 12. Westbrook still only had two at halftime.
The Rockets did what they do best in the third quarter, which is score. With 9:53 left, a drive from Gordon cut the Lakers lead to 67-62, and then a stepback three from Harden cut it to 67-65. That capped a 14-0 run for Houston.
With 3:25 left in the third quarter, the Rockets suddenly had an 85-80 lead.
There was worry for the Rockets as Harden looked visibly uncomfortable after getting stripped by Rondo, and it seemed to be a knee injury. Westbrook also picked up his fifth foul in the third quarter, adding to Houston’s concerns.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the score was 92-90 in favor of the Rockets. The Lakers were outscored 41-23 in the third quarter.
The Lakers predictably bounced back in the fourth quarter, forcing turnovers and making buckets to retake the lead as their opponents eventually slowed down from beyond the arc.
However, with 6:37 left, PJ Tucker hit himself another three to cut the deficit to 104-101.
That was the closest the Rockets would get for the rest of the game. The Rockets live and die by the three, and they just couldn’t hit enough of them in the third quarter. They shot an insane number of three pointers. They finished 22 of 53 for the game (41.5%) – but missed way too many in the fourth.
Westbrook certainly shot too many three pointers, going 1 of 7 from distance. He finished with 10 points and shot 26% from the field overall. The former MVP was a liability, because he didn’t space the floor for the team due to his shooting, got baited too many times to take a jumper instead of driving to the basket.
The Lakers fully deserved the 117-109 win. Anthony Davis led all scorers with 34 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. LeBron James was just shy of a triple-double to 28 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists.