The Houston Rockets picked the worst time for their worst game of the playoffs.
Even needing a win in the series and not in the deep 3-1 hole behind the Lakers, the Rockets came out in Game 4 and were flat. Indifferent. tired. Indifferent. All of the above. James Harden was asked how the Rockets could be so important to their game in their season.
And Harden left it there.
While the Rockets went too short late in the second half of the fourth quarter and lost by only 10 to cut the lead, the game was not so close.
The Lakers dominated behind 29 points from Anthony Davis and LeBron James, winning 110–100 with the help of a triple-double. Los Angeles now lead the series 3–1 and could close it out in Game 5 on Saturday.
Statistics often do not tell the story, but in this game they did:
• James Harden took six trios, tied for the second season, all season.
• Russell Westbrook, who has shot 25.8% out of three this season, has taken eight points.
• The Rockets received 33 shots from beyond the arc, their second-lowest number since the short ball (they had just 30 games). Houston won the final round 51 rounds against OKC.
• Harden was shooting 2 to 11 (but reached the free-throw line 20 times).
• PJ Tucker had zero points.
• Houston had just 41 points in the first half (scoring 38 runs in the second half of Game 3).
• The Lakers had 12 offensive rebellions, meaning they had a second chance at 35.6% of their memories. Rocket had one.
• Lakers got to the rim in the will, taking 45.5% of his shot attempts to within eight feet of the basket.
More annoying than all those numbers for Houston: The Lakers have run the same basic defense at Harden (especially in the second half) for the past three games, a straight-forward blitting double. The rocket had no answer.
The major change in the game was that the Lakers finally made a “small” debut with Davis and LeBron in four – no Jewell McGee or Dwight Howard all play. Or, more accurately, the Lakers started that way, as they always should, against the Rockets (and most teams for that matter).
“We can play big. We can play small. We can play in the middle, ”Davis said after the game.
The Lakers also gained 16 points off Alex Caruso’s bench, including a dagger three in the fourth to end the Rockets’ dream of a comeback. Rajon Rondo had 11 points and the second playoff Rondo game.
The Rockets played the game without sixth man Danuel House, who remains under investigation for possible violations of the bubble protocol. He reportedly saw a woman, who tests players for coronovirus at night, in her room (or at least the Rockets Hotel) when she was not in her work capacity. He could face 10-day coronavirus quarantine as punishment. The Rockets will likely not stay in the bubble for long.
Houston’s back is against the wall. Getting back to 3-1 is not impossible – Denver made it to the final round – but it could also be that a team played without passion and effort, as the Rockets did on Thursday.
“I don’t have an explanation for you,” Westbrook said when asked about the flat game. “There should be a sense of urgency on everyone’s part.”
“We know we’re in a big hole now, but the next game is the game we have to win,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Auton. “We’ll go out and if we put it on the line the same way we did in the fourth quarter, we’ll be fine.”
or not. Lebron is 13–0 in his career when his team leads 3–1 in the playoff series.