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Recap: Houston Rockets 107, Los Angeles Lakers 105

In five years of hardcore following basketball, I don’t think I’ve seen a more bizarre basketball game, whether Rockets or otherwise, in my entire life.  Words fail me to describe just what the heck happened here, but I will attempt to do my best.

The first half can basically be summed up by a paragraph I wrote shortly after it ended:

In an earlier recap, I declared a 102-91 defeat against our hated rivals Utah to be a disaster and an embarrassment.  Tonight’s game has taught me the valuable lesson of being cautious in using those words – because if the Utah loss was a disaster, tonight’s loss was the equivalent of the 140 car wreck that occurred in Southeast Texas during the recent Thanksgiving.

Even the first half was ridiculous, if for no other reason than that it can be summed up by “Almost every Rocket on the floor sucked, and only the scoring contributions of Mr. Toney Douglas prevented it from becoming a ridiculous blowout.”  If you do not understand the peculiarities of this statement, please turn in your Rockets fancard now.

Anyways, enough about the first half.  We sucked, the Lakers steamrolled us, at one point they led by 17 in the second quarter and they had a 13 point lead at the half.  Let us move on.

The third quarter, generally, was similar.  The Rockets defense improved, and this time the Rockets managed to cut the lead to 10, but there wasn’t a whole lot that was particularly new.  Harden bricked shot after shot( we will be covering that later), but the rest of the Rockets hung around to make a game out of it.  The score was 83-73, and the lineup was Douglas-Delfino-Parsons-Patterson-Smith.

Aside from substituting Parsons for Harden at the 9:38 mark, that was the lineup which would win the game.  You read that right.

The defense picked up.  Los Angeles’s complete and total lack of a point guard hurt them severely with their ball movement, as they turned over the ball at an awful, or to be even harsher, Houston-level, rate.  Houston’s jumpers, which went repeatedly in and out, finally began to go in.  And then, with 3:17 left, Interim coach Kelvin Sampson employed that ancient and legendary tactic which secured the victory.

He fouled the ever-loving daylights out of Dwight Howard.

Mr. Howard’s struggles with the free-throw line were particularly noted on Sunday when the Lakers embarrassingly lost to the Magic on a night where he shot 9-21 from that area. He did perform better tonight, as the he finished the blatant fouling by hitting 4 of his 8 foul shots during this period, but the Rockets turned the game around as their offense finally appeared.  A late Kobe 3 and a missed Toney Douglas free throw (his first missed free throw of the season in fact) gave a brief scare with 8 seconds to go, but for once there would be no miracle.  Kobe missed the game winner and the Rockets escaped with easily the strangest victory I have seen and will likely see in my life.

  • I really need to take a moment to talk about Douglas and Smith separately.  Let’s make it very, very clear.  Throughout this season, Toney Douglas has sucked so badly that at times I wished we had Rafer Alston back.  He could play pesky defense, but he couldn’t handle the ball, or do anything on offense.  But tonight was different.  He kept the Rockets in the game with timely shots in the first half.  It was Douglas who made the 3 pointer that gave Houston its first lead of the game with 2:38 left, and once again, it was Douglas, not Lin, who played at the end.  Smith secured rebounds, finished the ball, and hit free throws which secured Houston’s lead over Los Angeles.  He finished with a career-high 21 points on 8 shots, had 9 rebounds, and while his defense wasn’t Asik-level, it was good enough.  One of the small subplots that appeared during the Harden trade was the role of Cole Aldrich and whether Smith or Aldrich would be the backup behind Asik.  Tonight’s game largely decided the outcome of that battle, and may Aldrich enjoy the lovely sights of Europe next year.
  • While I really cannot praise Smith and Douglas enough, I also cannot lambast every Houston starter aside from Asik, who played a typical Asik game but was unable to battle the combined forces of Dwight Howard and Mr. Joey Crawford, enough.  Lin, Harden, Parsons, and Patterson all had contributed heavily to Houston’s previous wins, but tonight the four of them combined to shoot 12 for 48, and Marcus Morris, who has not played well over the last few games, threw up a 0 for 5 performance.  Harden in particular needs to be singled out as tonight was easily the worst game of his career in the red and white.  He bricked shot after shot, and there was a horrifying stretch in the second quarter where he (and the Rockets) began to lob fullcourt passes which inevitably led to turnovers.  Houston as a whole really needs to stop doing that.  Houston escaped with a win because the bench showed up tonight, but this is not a team that can reliably do this. We know Harden can be great.  It just needs to happen on a more consistent basis.
  • One thing which really showcases the media attention which the world lavishes on Lakers players is the evolved perception of Jordan Hill.  Hill was exciting when he first showed up, and Rahat himself wondered Hill would be the long, springy power forward who should have played with Yao Ming all those years ago.  However, while he hustled and rebounded, it was quickly revealed that he possessed barely any value on offense and that he was a lackluster defender.  The attempt to play him at center quickly and quietly ended in failure as Dalembert took his position and minutes, and Morey traded him for a late first rounder.  Today, despite largely bein the same player, many Lakers fans seem to view him as a valuable rotation player and have expressed irritation with D’Antoni’s refusal to play him.  Hill did pay tonight and grabbed several rebounds, but as usual failed to finish.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.


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About the author: Write for a living, though not in sports. Been following the Rockets my whole life, with Stockton’s shot being my first memory. Consequently traumatized.

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Total comments: 18
  • Stephen says 1 YEAR ago Rockets Best Fan
    1:17 to go...Kobe misses 21ft jumper
    :59 to go...Kobe misses driving lay-up
    :13 to go...Kobe makes 3pt shot
    :03 to go...Kobe misses 3pt shot.

    Kobe was the Lakers offense in last minute and went 1-4.
    I think it's pretty reasonable that without the fouling the Lakers would have gone 1 of 2.
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago Stephen:
    I disagree, the hacking strategy worked because it kept koby from taking over the game. when the laker starters came back koby was primed to finish the game. don't forget he was already having a super night. twice I saw koby try to hurry and shoot b4 we could foul howard. he was visibly upset with us for fouling howard. sampson scored a few coaching points with me last night.
  • Stephen says 1 YEAR ago ST,
    Hill was pulled @ the 6 minute mark for Howard.

    The hacking strategy worked simply because the Rockets were able to score on every possession. When it started the Lakers had a 4 pt lead,when the last foul was taken Howard made his FTs and the Lakers had a 2 pt lead.
    I thing the hacking worked,but not for the reason everyone else is claiming.(It didn't kill Laker momentum,the Rockets were surging before it and had out-scored LA 20-15 in the Quarter. The extra possessions argument doesn't really hold water either,assuming the game was played w/out the fouls,the Lakers were scoring on half their possessions and the Rockets probably would have scored twice,bringing the lead down to 1 or 2-which is what it was after the hacking.)
    Instead I believe the hacking fired up the crowd,which the Rocket players fed off of-multiple offensive rebounds for example. Further the FTs gave the players a few seconds each possession to catch their breath-something bench players not used to extended minutes probably really needed.
  • Chichos says 1 YEAR ago Chris Duhon played 38 minutes for the Lakers so I'm not sure how much was Douglas playing out of his mind and how much was Duhon being just terrible.

    I was at the game and first hand the Rockets had 0 energy until Douglas got in the game. Delfino played well but had some seriously bad shot selection at times. I also loved how into the game the starters were at the end even though they were watching from the bench. Lin was right there congratulating Smith as he came off the court.

    All in all Paul nailed it, just an awful game until halfway through the fourth, where it turned into playoff basketball. Strange game but a win against the Lakeshow is always sweet.
  • Bigtkirk says 1 YEAR ago Houston won a game that it should not have because of two factors -- the Lakers' unforced turnovers and the Rockets offensive rebounding. I figure that based on turnover differential and offensive rebounds, the Rockets probably had about 15 more possessions than the Lakers. You can win a close one occasionally doing that even while shooting poorly. But it's not a good idea to try and make a habit of it.

    It sure is going to be fun watching Asik and Smith develop.
  • Jeby says 1 YEAR ago It is impossible for me to hate Toney Douglas. He plays harder than anyone on the team, he has unflappable confidence (this is a skill, just like hustle) and he still knows how to defer to better players on offense.
    He has no idea how to run the offense, and on defense he runs into picks like Wyle E. Coyote runs into walls, but he still has swagger.
  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago hell of a win. i didnt get to watch all of it, for reasons well known, but i did catch some of the stream early and then late. i love wins like this. of course i would prefer NOT to see the starters struggle so mightily, but to gut one out. one they could have thrown the towel in on. gotta love it.
  • Johnny Rocket says 1 YEAR ago Like everybody else here, I really loved the game. I watched in S. California with the Lakers announcers. They were simply stunned.

    Smith will be a much better than Asik. I love Asik's defense and rebounding, but he's got no hands and will never be a good free throw shooter. He's also an uneven passer and commits a lot of turnovers. Smith has great hands and a great shooting touch (he's shooting 80 percent on free throws), and he rarely turns the ball over. Once he develops a mid-range game where he feels comfortable taking shots in the 8-10 feet range, he's going to be an even greater offensive force. Keep in mind that Asik is 26 and Smith is 21.

    On Harden: He had a terrible shooting night, but had 10 rebounds and 6 assists. If the other starters had hit more of their shots, he might have had a triple-double. He set up Smith nicely on several drives in the fourth quarter.
  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    ItsAllGoodBro, on 05 December 2012 - 20:22 PM said:

    LA's bench KILLED THEM. Jordan Hill. I laugh when i hear lakers fans talk about how "good" he is. How he's a great "energy" guy. It's a classic case of the uniform making things seem shiny. Luke Walton was pretty good as a Laker..till he wasn't. Same with Sascha Vujacic. Hill is a low-IQ player and will always be that way. He left Greg Smith open time and time again. LAKERS FANS. TAKE IT FROM US. JORDAN HILL IS NOOOOO GOOOOD

    This is a good point. I've been trying to figure out what the catalyst was for Smith and Douglas having such good games, but at the end of the day I guess it has to at least have something to do personnel on the other side of the ball. Aaron McGuire believes that Jamison is the worst defender in the NBA, and I can well believe it. As you say, Hill isn't a great team defender either. Howard has to be a bit of a roving presence, so if you set Smith up on the weakside he's going to get the attention of the 4 man a lot of the time...or not get the attention as the case seemed to be in this game. Smith put in one hook shot, but apart from that it was all garbage collection and catch-and-lay-in/dunk opportunities. Giving those up down the stretch is kind of unforgivable.

    Similarly, I noticed down the stretch the Lakers put Kobe on Toney Douglas (I can't recall whether he covered him earlier in the game as well). Douglas was getting himself wide open looks in the corner whenever he wanted, it seems. There was one possession in particular that stood out to my sleep deprived brain (it was totally worth staying up until 3:30 AM to watch that game, but I was regretting it this morning). Bryant was completely out of position and the remaining perimeter defender had to cover both his own man and Douglas...Douglas ended up making a two with his foot on the line, IIRC. Now, I don't know if that was a game long trend, but I could well imagine it to be the case. And even if it wasn't, neither Duhon nor Morris is a particularly good defender from the PG position so it's not like any of the other players they could have put of him could have done a much better job.

  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago Nice post Paul. Games like last night's are why I'm a basketball fan. I think folks around here are a little tough on Toney. To me, he better fits the "point guard mold" over Lin with his style of play. He doesn't freeze the ball, he doesn't get trapped and rarely gets his pockets picked in the games that I've watched (I may be missing something). Yes, his decision making could use a little improvement, and you don't see "thread the needle" entrance passes like you do from Lin. But, he plays decent defense, shoots great at the line and has a much more consistent shooting form versus Jeremy Lean. Not saying I want the guy as a starter because he doesn't have that Lagniappe (little something extra) that Lin has, but I'm not filled with trepidation when he steps onto the court like I was with Brooks and Alston. He's a good back-up.

    Lakers considering Hill as a good rotation player, solidifies the point that team is not deep enough to go far, also their injured, starting PG is like 40! Their starting PF has bubble gum holding his kneecaps together. Their new starting center can't hit a shot further than 5' from the basket. (not that ours is much better). And World Peace is a head-case.

    I was pleased with Smith's performance against the League's premier center. He really got the best of him last night. I think he'll be doing nothing but getting better and better as he matures. He's got great huge hands, an explosive leap, and a soft touch when needed. I look for good things from this kid. The guys at CSN likened him to OT which is a huge compliment.
  • ItsAllGoodBro says 1 YEAR ago living in socal, i watched the game with a few lakers fans. they were pulling their hair out. a bizarre game. the rockets starters played badly, but steady coaching by sampson saved the game. Douglas kept the rockets around, and Greg Smith played his role. Smith in particular can finish around the basket when he has some daylight.

    Criticizing Harden seems silly though. Just because his shot isn't falling doesn't mean he's not contributing a tremendous amount. He hit his free throws, and we all know how important that is. He also found Smith open for easy buckets time and time again. He had some bad turnovers, but it's the Lakers, a supposedly good team. Lin got into foul trouble early (as did Asik) and that really handcuffed those two. Parsons was so-so but played good defense down the stretch.

    LA's bench KILLED THEM. Jordan Hill. I laugh when i hear lakers fans talk about how "good" he is. How he's a great "energy" guy. It's a classic case of the uniform making things seem shiny. Luke Walton was pretty good as a Laker..till he wasn't. Same with Sascha Vujacic. Hill is a low-IQ player and will always be that way. He left Greg Smith open time and time again. LAKERS FANS. TAKE IT FROM US. JORDAN HILL IS NOOOOO GOOOOD
  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago Last night was just like the game against Chicago: Douglas making a three to give us the lead in the final moments.
    Lin wasn't all that bad last night, just got into foul trouble way too quickly.
    And Sampson took all the right decisions....I mean, the bench got you back in the game, they were rolling, it wouldn't be fair to those guys who did a better job containing Bryant and Howard, but mostly, it would be stupid to take out of the game those guys who were making buckets (it's not like Lin and Patterson, or Harden, were making some anyway). It's nice to see the bench stepping up, but it shouldn't be an indicative of anything long term related to the starting lineup. Lin is getting starting lineup salary, and he will remain in the starting five, period. But it's a good thing to know that sometimes (hopefully, not too often) you can rely on your bench to pick up the slack. Of course, this was the chance to beat LAL, next time we meet against them plus Pau and Nash won't be any easier. And getting 21 offensive rebounds won't happen every day either.

    We have seen some of this hustle from Smith and Douglas, that's why the biggest surprise last night for me was Delfino. I really didn't understand that signing back then, but he really stepped up last night, and didn't embarrass himself guarding Kobe (at least, not more than Harden). He is proving to be more than serviceable, and proving me wrong. I like that :D
  • rocketrick says 1 YEAR ago I felt the Rockets played a very good game against the Miami Heat a couple of weeks back in Toyota Center but we lost the game primarily because of LeBron James' greatness. So it feels good to beat the LA Lakers while not playing as well as the Rockets are capable of playing. Active crowd last night, too.
  • willdarling says 1 YEAR ago 'The Lakers just pooped their big-boy pants!'

    Agree with Mr Walker. Rockets went with people producing on the night and came out with the W. I don't think it is reflective of anything more long term.
    Having said that Lin needs to up his FG%...
  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    kjy112, on 05 December 2012 - 17:13 PM said:

    Ooooh starting PG controversy. Jeremy Lin benched and played only 20 mins vs Tony Douglas's 28 mins. Discuss....

    Nah, there's no controversy here. Unlike the Portland game where the call was more marginal, here Douglas was the only guy who had it going all game long and deserved to be on the court at the end of the game. I did find myself wondering with a few minutes left whether Sampson would decide the guys out there were tired and bring back the starters, but he didn't, and justifiably so. Douglas would have to be able to do this consistently to stand any chance of impinging on Lin's starting time in the long haul, and I highly doubt that will happen. What we're seeing with Douglas correlates with the reports out of his previous time in New York - an incredibly streaky player who can occasionally produce brilliance but was often mediocre. Tonight we saw the brilliant side, but if you've watched the games this season you'd be incredibly uncomfortable with expecting him to be able to produce like this on a regular basis.

    Smith, on the other hand, has probably cemented himself as the backup C with that performance, as Paul wrote. He was great on the offensive boards and did an excellent job down the stretch making his shots and free-throws while under immense pressure. Loved what I saw and hopefully this proves he can handle a few more minutes. Probably a good thing to take a little bit of the load off Asik's shoulders.

  • SamC says 1 YEAR ago When it comes to Lin, there will always be a PG controversy. His fans love him. His critics hate him. Douglas had a great game but Lin wasn't benched because of his performance. He was benched because he picked up his second foul early in the game. Then when Sampson put him in again, he picked up another quick foul. And then again. Fortunately, Douglas was able to pick up the slack on offense and defensive so at the end of the game, Sampson went with Douglas. He created a few steals and had timely baskets.

    Is it me or has Lin's been bringing up the ball a lot more in the last two games and initiating the offense? Despite all the criticism that Lin gets about his turnovers, I feel more comfortable having him bring the ball up the floor than Harden. Which brings me to my last observation. What's going on with him? I don't see him playing much defense and I don't know if it's because he's trying to save his energy for offense but I wish he would put some effort on the defensive end. Granted, I think he had like 4 fouls yesterday but whenever I see a fast break, he just back peddles and concedes the basket. At least I see other players trying to go for the block or charge. When his offense isn't there, he should be putting more effort on the defensive end.
  • Forrest Walker says 1 YEAR ago This benching feels more palatable for the starters. The bench guys were rolling, and that's all there was to it. It felt like that Spurs vs Mavs game last year where Pop kept the bench unit in because they closed the gap. Most of the time the starters will be the ones getting it done. Against the Lakers, just happened to be those guys. And good for them.
  • kjy112 says 1 YEAR ago Ooooh starting PG controversy. Jeremy Lin benched and played only 20 mins vs Tony Douglas's 28 mins. Discuss....

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