Lakers Flip the Script in Game 2

After Game 1, there were major aspects of the Lakers’ game that needed to be improved in order to have a chance in the series. Offensively, the Lakers will need an improved scoring effort from outside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Defensively, the Lakers were going to need to slow down the dribble penetration.

After Game 1, it looked like the Lakers were not ready for what the Rockets. Following the game, LeBron James stated that, “they play with a lot of speed both offensively and defensively. We got a feel for their speed, and we should be fully aware of that going into Game 2.” This is exactly what happened in Game 2.

The Lakers opened the game with a much better idea of how to slow down the Rockets defensively. The Lakers held the Rockets to 35% shooting in the first quarter and jumped out to a 36-20 lead. By bringing doubles to James Harden and forcing him to pass the ball from the perimeter and being quicker on their rotations from the weak side, the Lakers were making things much more difficult for the Rockets.

Quarter 2 saw the Lakers push the lead to 21 points, helped by the fact that the Rockets’ poor shooting continued into the second quarter. However, the Rockets eventually got going in the quarter slashing the lead to 9 before the Lakers were able to end the quarter with a 67-51 lead.

The first half ended with a much improved effort from the Lakers defensively. While it may not show up on the stat sheet, one of the main catalysts in the defensive effort was Rajon Rondo. He continued to hound James Harden the entire evening.

As great as the Lakers looked in the first half, that team did not show up for the majority of the 3rd Quarter. The Rockets’ offense finally caught fire in the quarter while only missing 6 shots. Three point shots that were not falling in the first half couldn’t seem to miss in the third. Houston roared all the way back to lead by 5 with 3:25 remaining in the 3rd Quarter. Thanks to outscoring the Lakers 41-23 in the quarter, the Rockets entered the 4th Quarter leading, 92-90.

After regrouping at the break, the Lakers tied the game at 92 and again at 94 before Rondo nailed an 18 foot jumper to give the Lakers a 96-94 lead with 10:08 remaining. An Eric Gordon turnover and James dunk and two defensive stops later, the Lakers pushed the lead to 102-94 and it all looked over from there. However, the Rockets had one more push. With 6:38 to go in the game, the Rockets closed the lead to 104-101 thanks to some timely three point shooting. But that is as close as they would get. The Lakers finished off the Rockets, 117-109 to even the series at 1-1.

For the Lakers, the return of Rajon Rondo could not have come at a better time. His defensive effort against Harden proved to be the difference maker. His 10 points, 9 assists, and 5 steals proved to be invaluable for the Lakers. The other stat that jumps out is that the Lakers were +28 while Rondo was on the floor. Not only does he bring the ability to defend the ball, the Lakers seem to move better offensively when he is running the point. If he can continue to the Lakers in this manner (which has been his mode of operation his entire career), the Rockets better watch out.

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