I missed the first half of this one, but tuned in for the first 18 minutes of the second half as LA failed to make a run and in doing so failed to make this one a contest.
The Rockets went up double digits after five minutes and never looked back. They were up 18 points by halftime, and grew that lead to 27 points halfway through the third quarter behind a barrage of three pointers from Brooks and Battier. The rest of the game was garbage time.
What follows is mostly just thoughts on the box score:
- Aaron Brooks is a far more effective player when he’s allowed to dominate the ball. He likes to play, likes his coach to allow him to play, like a Chris Paul — a point guard who’s allowed pound the ball into the floor and make every decision for his team. We’ve known this about Brooks for a long time, and it’s part of what makes him a so-so fit as role player on a team contending for a title …. but it’s also what makes him terrifying as a team’s first option when those stars go down.
- Brooks dropped 17 of his 34 points in that pivotal third quarter … and was the Rockets orchestrator throughout. He blew apart LA’s defense, getting easy dribble penetration and doing an unselfish job of kicking the ball back out and letting the ball movement find the open shooters for easy shots for his teammates. He did an excellent job leading the Rockets offense tonight. He was the best player on the court tonight.
- Shane Battier was the runner up — 15 of his 23 points came in the first half as Houston built up a large lead, but his best work came defensively holding Bryant to just 15 points on 17 shot attempts. Battier also shot 5-10 from downtown. Great game from Shane.
- Luis Scola was irresistible with 14 rebounds in 32 minutes. He just dominated the glass and helped Houston build up a 43-37 advantage on the glass. His physical toughness in the paint was evident throughout, and he helped Houston stop LA’s more talented big men. Scola also added 11 points and had a couple of pretty passes (that shot fake pass to Lowry for a layup from the FT line — excellent) to boot!
- Chuck Hayes got the start in Yao’s absence and did a terrific job defensively. He provides a different type of defender than Yao –Hayes is only 6-6 and is grounded 6-6 so he ain’t blocking anyone’s shot, but Hayes is an excellent screen and role defender and more than capable of switching onto player on the court. Hayes defended Pau Gasol and did truly superb job on him through three quarters.
- Ron Artest was the only Rockets player to struggle with his shot, and boy did he struggle, with just 8 points on 4-19 shooting from the field. But Ronnie fought through his struggles and found other ways to help his team — 10 rebounds, 6 assists and excellent defense.
- The bench, outside of Lowry, didn’t do a lot. Landry was solid but largely anonymous in his 12 minutes, while Von Wafer and Cook did nothing noteworthy. Lowry was very good in 27 minutes, playing tough breakneck defense and driving relentlessly offensively. He has 12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 dimes, and 2 steals.
- Before we talk about any of the Lakers individual players, we have to start with their defense — it was disgraceful — they allowed easy dribble penetration, were sloppy and slow on their defense rotations, didn’t close out on shooters, and provided very little help on the interior. They were soft all over the court and the Rockets ran all over them.
- Kobe Bryant was very poor — 15 points on 17 shots — and poor defense.
- Aaron Brooks destroyed Fisher and Farmar at will, and neither point guard had anything resembling even a mediocre performance. Shannon Brown did a solid job in garbage time but did little, with little opportunity, prior to that.
- Pau Gasol had 17 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter after he allowed Chuck Hayes to make him his _____ (something that begins with a B and rhymes with itch) for the first 36 minutes of the game. Gasol did a terrible job offensively and defensively. Gasol didn’t show up until the game was over … an embarrassing performance.
- LA’s bigs in general did horrible work — Pau, Bynum and Odom — Remember back to Andrew Bynum’s second year? When he really struggled and looked like a lost puppy dog in the second half of the season? That’s exactly how he looks out there right now. Atrocious game from Bynum, they’re better off playing Josh Powell at the moment. Lamar Odom was abused by Luis Scola, and finished with only 2 points and 6 rebounds in 25 minutes.
- Trevor Ariza was a train wreck — tonight was one of those nights were you were dying for LA to have a three point shooter at the three, and no, Luke Walton was not that man. Vujacic was also fairly pathetic off the bench.