Lakers 88, Rockets 79

2010 January 6
by rahat huq


No surprises here: the Rockets exhibited their usual valor and lost to the defending champs.

Carl Landry led the way with 19, including 13 in the 1st half, almost singlehandedly keeping the team in the game in the 2nd.  Andrew Bynum was too big inside for the Rockets as he finished with 24 points.  Lamar Odom had 17 points and 19 rebounds.  Kobe Bryant had a rough shooting night going 9-23 from the field for 22 points.

The flow of this one was pretty odd as there were at least 5 occasions when the team went down by double digits, only to come roaring back within minutes.  As Ernie Johnson described during a break from the NBAtv studio, “Houston is like a boxer.”

Random Musings:

  • I had some mixed feelings when the news broke that Pau Gasol would not be in uniform.  As a fan, I want this team to succeed and so naturally, am pleased by any factor that might facilitate that outcome.  At the same time, the subjective emotions that characterize ‘fandom’ are anathema to any type of analytical integrity.  I already knew this team was pretty good, but I wanted to see how far they still had to climb.  To that end, a game without Gasol is pretty much a waste of time.
  • Interesting stat: the Lakers’ announcers mention prior to tip-off that the Rockets are an astonishing 11-1 this year in games following a loss.  Incredible – especially for such a young team.  It really quantifies a certain level of focus that we can already observe with our eyes.
  • My main observation from this game pertains to one Carl Landry.  He showed two moves last night that made my jaw drop; we’re talking shades of Hakeem Olajuwon.
  1. With 3:31 remaining in the 2nd, Carl faced up on the right block, drove hard to his left, put on the breaks, and then flipped back around (off his right pivot foot) for the short hook.  This is a move for which only the top 99th percentile of big men in the league have the capacity to attempt.  In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that I’ve only seen Hakeem actually pull this off.  Landry usually spins with the dribble – a fairly easy move to pull off and done routinely by most wings.  The distinction here is that he actually turned after stopping, exhibiting the footwork to gather himself fluidly enough for the shot attempt.  I don’t think he actually made the shot, but process overrides result.  As far as I’m concerned, this was the most significant play of last night’s game.  We didn’t even know he had this in him…
  2. With 7:22 remaining in the 4th, Carl faces up once more, drives with his right hand, spins back to his left, and fades away for the shot.  My jaw drops.  He misses this shot as well, but again, he’s showing us moves that we didn’t even know he had.

  • The evolution of Carl Landry has easily been the most striking theme of this season.  He’s gradually revealing jump hooks, driving spins, and driving fadeaways, to add to the jumpshooting and grab-the-board-against-4-guys-putback abilities we already knew he had.  It’s as if, prior to the season, he wrote a novel, and is now following his plan to release it piecemeal.  At this rate, I’m almost expecting to see a ‘Dreamshake’ by the first week of March.
  • I want to explain how I write these recaps.  I sit down with my laptop while watching the game and jot down notes if anything catches my eye.  I then put meat on those general notes after the final buzzer.  What I just failed to mention is the internal battle I wage on a daily basis.  Prior to tip-off each night, I calmly tell myself, “Rahat, just don’t mention Trevor.  Focus on other aspects; don’t beat a dead horse.”  Ariza always forces me into losing this battle with my conscience.  He was 5-14 tonight, but these numbers don’t do justice to just how bad he was.  He took a ‘3’ from the corner against heavy coverage early on that just left me shaking my head.  After he actually fell down on a post-up with 3:10 remaining in the 4th, a thought came to mind: before Trevor Ariza, never before did the phrase “he has bad footwork” have such literal meaning.  He’s not just awkward.  The guy actually routinely slips and falls while making his moves.  It’s just reaching laughable proportions right now.  Early on, he showcased his signature ‘stop-and-slide’ on multiple occasions, a quickly rising favorite of mine from his arsenal.  The ‘stop-and-slide’ basically entails Trevor stopping, losing his balance, and actually sliding off the other foot as he struggles to regain balance.  I couldn’t make this up if I tried.  I think Ariza serves as the perfect foil to Carl Landry in this strange season, as, while the latter almost seems to be holding back to further tease his audience through the season’s advance, the former finds new means for futility on a nightly basis.

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  • bob schmidt
    I feel like I saw a miracle in last night's game, the "trees" protecting the rim for LA managed to block, strip, or deflect almost every drive to the rim without fouling........Seemed to me like the refs had a game plan of not making any calls against the Lakers for the most part.........

    Some of the bricks being thrown up were frustration shots......A true closer in the last 5 minutes would have probably won this game with reasonable calls from the refs.
  • David Ashley
    Not only have the Rockets had the toughest strength of schedule BY FAR (currently .557, next closest is Phoenix at .538), they also played more road games than any team in the league at 21. And I'd be very suprised if anyone has played more back-to-backs, or 4 games in 5 days (after tonight they will have played 10 back-to-backs and went 4 games in 5 days twice).

    Of their 35 games, they've already played:

    Lakers x 3 (2 road, 1 home)
    Portland x 3 (2 road, 1 home)
    Dallas x 3 (2 road, 1 home)
    Cleveland x 2 (1 road, 1 home)
    Denver x 1 (1 road)
    Orlando x 1 (1 road)
    Atlanta x 1 (1 road)
    Utah x 1 (1 road)
    Oklahoma City x 3 (1 road, 2 home)
    New Orleans x 2 (1 road, 1 home)
    Phoenix x 1 (1 home, play them on the road tonight)
    San Antonio x 1 (1 home)

    And after getting the Lakers on the road last night, we've got Phoenix tonight...on the road again. And no nationally televised games for what has been the most entertaining Rockets team in years.

    Meanwhile, it seems the NBA league office decided the Lakers were going to play 82 home games this season.
  • Alituro
    Good points Bob and David. I would also like to request an investigation of the positioning of the hoop at Staples Center. I think it's highly suspect. We missed so many damned shots last night especially in the first half. It wasn't by virtue of tough D from the Lakers either.

    In all seriousness though, last night went about as expected. Love to watch the progression of our team. They play with tremendous heart all the time even when the cards are stacked against them and the night becomes dismal early. Case in Point: Did anyone catch Scola swipe the ball out of Odom's(?) hands on the baseline in the 3rd and into Lowry's, then haul ass to be the first to the hoop on the other end of the floor for the layup and 1? We could be lottery bound, as long as these guys play as hard as they do, then it will always be a pleasure to view.
  • thirdcoastborn
    Too many missed free throws. They also lost because of such terrible shooting. Right now if I had to choose out of Landry and Scola, i choose Landry. He is way more athletic and explosive around the rim, and younger. I have not seen any big men duplicate the the great Hakeem, the only similarity Landry has to him is that he is 6"9 and Hakeem is 6'10
  • dominicboyle
    I live in the UK ( at present submerged in Snow), For diffcult to explain reasons, I am a Houston Rockets fan, and since the glory days of the 80's have suffered like most American fans, with the fallow years, followed by the last few years where the team has been amazing considering that 90% of the budget is sitting on the sidelines. I have recently started reading your blog which I find a great read - it seems to be just looking at the stats and sometimes the game cast, that Houston shoot and miss too many 3's. this maybe because of a lack of a big man to go to, but you would think more movement would help.. Also why is Chuck a starter - surely Anderson would be a more potent offensive Center ??/
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