LA Lakers 119, Houston Rockets 108

The good news is that Terrence Jones saw nearly 20 minutes of playing time and left us with a brutal highlight to enjoy. The bad news is that there was a game tonight. With the nascent form of a D’antoni offense set up in Los Angeles, the Lakers had their way with the Rockets, punishing them from the arc, from the paint and from the free throw line. They shot 45% from deep. They hit 54% overall. They only hit 18 free throws out of 28, but they got 28 free throws.

The Rockets produced another game line that looks like a win until you see what the other guys did. They shot like a decent team, even though the egregious misses seem to stick in my head more. 49% from the field and 39% from three are quite respectable numbers. It’s harder to be proud of 11-18 free throw shooting, but that’s anomalous for a generally good free throw team. They didn’t really lose in any major category, despite what it looked like. They Rockets notched more offensive and total rebounds, and more assists. They trailed by only two steals, two blocks and two turnovers. The only two stats which stand out are the two most important: 22 Rockets fouls to 15 on the Lakers, and 6% better shooting from the field for Los Angeles.

While Kobe and his triple double clearly earn the game ball tonight, Chandler Parsons was the best Rocket on the floor. He his 8-10 of his shots, including a fantastic 4-5 from the arc. 24 points on 10 shots is amazing, even if he only recorded 1 rebound tonight. 3 assists and a steal don’t hurt either.

The rest of the Rockets had a surprisingly even performance, implying that they’re beginning to learn how to share the ball well. Of course, it also probably has something to do with Harden being the focus of Metta World Peace’s defense. Harden had 20 points on 7-18 shooting as well as 7 assists and a couple rebounds. He’s distributing and creating well, but also taking a turnover hit (5). That’s somewhat to be expected, but his assist to turnover ratio and his effective field goal percentage (an honestly disappointing 48%) are not quite what you need from a max player. It’s likely a lot of this could change if another true scoring threat it signed or traded for, but for now he’s carrying a tough load.

Lin still can’t shoot: 2-9 just sucks. He can still pass: 10 assists and 3 turnovers is quite good. It’s another verse of “if only he could shoot.” Asik and Patterson did their jobs with decent shooting (4-6 for Omer, 7-13 for Pat) and solid rebounding (8 and 9 respectively). The defensive end was a bit stickier for them. Gasol got all the open midrange looks he wanted, and Dwight was a terror in the paint. The midrange looks probably could have been prevented somewhat, but it’s not clear what more Asik could have done. He also took another hit to the face, this time requiring stitches on the bridge of his nose. For the second time in 10 games, he came out of the locker room with fresh stitches. Hopefully this won’t continue.

Morris continues to make a case for two things. One: He’s trying to be the sixth man, and he’s looking convincing. 12 points on 12 shots isn’t great, but it’s not bad. And 8 rebounds in 25 minutes is fine by me. He hustles and he’s clearly getting better. He’s also some kind of hybrid big-wing who can do a bit of just about everything. Two: He’s making everyone who called him a bust look silly. I openly admit to being on that train, and openly admit that he’s proving me wrong. Fine by me. I’d love for every current Rockets player to prove me wrong by playing better than I thought possible.

Terrence Jones got real minutes tonight, scoring 8 points, grabbing 4 rebounds and dropping 3 dimes. What we’ll all forget is that he was the one who Kobe shot that miracle shot through for the almost-a-3-pointer and one. What we’ll remember is that he vaporized Jodie Meeks on a spectacular dunk. It’s been posted everywhere, so please, revel in it.

The Rockets were liable to be blown out sooner or later, and it happened to come at the hands of the Lakers. Everyone pencilled them in for a finals appearance a few weeks ago, and they’re finally starting to make that look possible. For the past few years, it’s felt like the Rockets lead the league in morale boosts for other teams, with everyone getting a much needed win at the expense of the boys in red. If they could stop allowing open threes all night long, they might be able to shake that. Somehow, the defense has looked worse with defensive coordinator Kelvin Sampson temporarily holding the reins.

4-6 is better than the 3-7 we had to swallow the last couple years, but not by much. If they can’t get their defense into the top 10 or so, they’ll keep losing tough games. But at least they have upside, and Kobe can’t take that away.

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Note that this was written prior to the Rockets-Lakers Sunday night affair.  The events of that game had no bearing...