The Los Angeles Lakers evened out their overall win-loss record on Feb. 22 after their defensive effort overcame a 19-point deficit to beat the Houston Rockets, 106-111
Head coach Luke Walton loved the win because it looked like L.A. found their mojo on defense as the game went on.
“We kept scraping and found a way to give ourselves a chance,” Walton said after the game.
The Lakers head coach didn’t say they stopped Rockets guard James Harden but he did say the team made it hard for him.
“We went from our normal coverage to our blitz coverage to try to keep him off balance a little but the whole team did a pretty good job.” Walton said about using multiple defenders on Harden.
Still, it was the Lakers ninth outing where all starters scored in double-digits. LeBron James led the group with 29 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
“He’s great every night,” Walton said after the victory. “He recognizes where we’re at the sense of urgency we need to play with.”
Good Team Win
James himself said that he is happy his team gets a fresh start in the second half of the season.
“I’m happy with who we got. I love our squad, and I’m looking forward to seeing us battle the rest of this season.” James said in a walk-off interview with TNT after beating Houston.
Part of that love extends to Brandon Ingram who registered 27 points on 8-for-16 shooting as well as 13 rebounds. He started at point guard and converted several highlight layups throughout the game but the team’s efforts on defense jumped out most to him in the contest.
“Just how connected we were, on the offensive end but definitely on the defensive end.” B.I. said about the team’s good win.
Otherwise, L.A. got both Josh Hart and Tyson Chandler back after the two had missed time before the All-Star break. Hart finished the game with four points and two rebounds in 18 minutes but was big on defense in the second half.
Houston stalled late
L.A. still struggled with turnovers versus turnovers. They had seven of their 19 turnovers in the first quarter which led to an early ten-point deficit.
This matchup was the first time Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul would share the floor since their altercation in October. Rondo added two points, seven assists and two rebounds in just under 20 minutes off the bench while Paul finished the night with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists
“Man, it’s getting uglier and uglier,” Paul said about the team losing big leads late in games. “We have to get better.”
Late technical fouls on the Rockets starting point guard and Mike D’antoni as well as Harden fouling out sealed the Rockets loss. Harden finished with 30 points, six assists and five rebounds but he went 0-for-4 from three point range in the fourth.
“He probably got tired,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said after the loss. “We needed guys to help him out and come off the bench and hit shots and we didn’t do it.”
Kenneth Faried was was the only player from either team with double-digit scoring off the bench. Faried registered 13 points, one block, one steal and six rebounds in 18 minutes.
Nonetheless, Rockers center Clint Capela returned after missing 15 games with a thumb injury. He scored 12 points and added 11 rebounds.
“Obviously, we didn’t come away with the win but he did some really great things out there.” Harden said about Capela’s return.
More Lakers Leads from All-Star Weekend
Kyle Kuzma has grown as a leader. Luke Walton said as much on the Mason and Ireland show in the practice before the Rockets game. Walton said Kuzma’s dominant performance in the All-Star Rising Stars game as evidence of his growth.
Playoff LeBron is activated. James told the L.A. Times he is looking forward to the playoff race and that is all that is on his mind. He also told the media is he going to have to be a little bit different, a little earlier than he is used to. Lebron even went as far as saying he doesn’t even remember the last time he wasn’t in the playoff hunt after the all-star break. Still, he said he doesn’t fear anything and looks forward to the chance to be uncomfortable. Otherwise, James said he feels good despite returning from a groin injury earlier in the season.
Lastly, a LeBron playing with former All-Star teammate Dwayne Wade was also a big storyline of All-Star weekend. He and James shared a couple of special Alley-Opps during James’ team win. However, James also made up with former teammate Kyrie Irving. Irving said he apologized to James earlier in the season because he needed to move on with his life.
What’s next for L.A.?
Next the Lakers travel to play the New Orleans Pelicans at 4:00 P.M. PST. Every Lakers game is a crucial as they try to get back in the playoff hunt. They’re currently 2.5 games behind the Clippers for the 8th seed in the West and one game behind the Kings for the 9th spot.