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FSM Essential Recap: Lakers vs Rockets – Game 44

Franchise Sports Media

Los Angeles Lakers (20-24) | Houston Rockets (10-34)

 

The Lake Show snapped their three-game losing streak after defeating the Houston Rockets 140-132, thanks to a season-best scoring performance from LeBron James

 

Lakers vs Rockets
Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP

The hope is that Anthony Davis is going to be able to get back out on the floor for a handful of games before the All-Star break,” said Shams Charania, an update on the rehab timeline for the Lakers star.

Darvin Ham told reporters that Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV are a few days away from their follow-up examinations. Ham said Patrick Beverley was available to play after missing the last two games. Troy Brown Jr. (left quad soreness) and LeBron James (left ankle soreness) were also upgraded to available vs. Houston.

The Lakers returned to their small backcourt against the Rockets, with Dennis Schroder, Patrick Beverley, Brown Jr., King James, and Thomas Bryant against Houston.

Pat Bev wasted no time in his return, as he knocked down a three to get the game started, followed by another three, this time by James. The first quarter was a pure offensive showcase, as there was little to no defense, with the score at Lakers 37 and Rockets 35. 

Juan Toscano-Anderson’s foul on Eric Gordon’s three-point attempt was costly, allowing Houston to narrow the gap. The Lakers were shooting 56.5% and made 5 of 11 threes (45.5%). Five Lakers already had 6-plus points. Houston had outscored Los Angeles 22-16 in the paint.

LA picked up their transition game in the second quarter, with Wenyen Gabriel (a putback), James, and Nunn all scoring at the rim. The Lakers had a 9-0 fast break points edge, including a 7-0 run, to lead 44-35 early in the second.

King James found his jumper from range, which is always a welcoming sight. However, Houston made their counterattack, as LA’s lead was down to just five at 54-49. The Rockets stuck in this game thanks to Alperen Sengun, a crafty scorer. His game is similar to the likes of Domantas Sabonis and Nikola Jokic.

Houston was also able to keep things close as the Lakers played lackadaisically. Although, they did have lady luck on their side as an ugly possession ended in a three from Toscano-Anderson. We’ll take that any day of the week.

But more so, King James put LA on his back. James showed rookie Jabari Smith Jr., and the rest of Houston’s young players, why he’s the best transition player in NBA history with a series of fast break buckets to push LA’s lead to 12 at halftime.

 

At halftime, the score read Lakers 73, Rockets 61. James had 18 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Russell Westbrook, Gabriel, and Beverley each had 11 points. LA made 44.4% of their threes and 81.3% of their FTs. The Lakers held a 14-2 advantage in fast-break points.

 

Lakers vs Rockets
Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP

A one-legged jumper from James kicked off the second half. Sometimes it can be crazy to think about just how deep his bag of tricks is. The man can pull off almost any iteration of a jump shot. 

Not to mention James hit two straight threes on top of a long two-point jumper. He had LA back on top at 84-71 before a Rockets jumper snapped the push by the king. James had 26 points on 10 of 15 FGs with four triples, more than he’d hit in his previous five games.

A great find from Schroder allowed Gabriel to cash in on an and-1 opportunity. After another pretty finish from James, the Lakers led 95-81. However, in the third quarter, the Lakers we know and hate came out as usual, as the Rockets closed the quarter on a 17-7 run.

At the end of the third quarter, the score read Lakers 102, Rockets 98. Houston went on a run with King James off the floor, and LA found themselves in a much closer game. In a game where James has again been dominant offensively (28 points on 17 shots) and was +13, LA’s lead was down to 4 heading into the fourth, after a late third-quarter run from Houston sparked by Jalen Green’s three triples.

The Rockets must’ve been annoyed with the king, as he got hit in the face. At least he received free throws. Kudos to Jae’Sean Tate as he tried to take a charge on James in transition. He’s a much braver man than most.

We’d more than love one stress-free fourth-quarter win by the Lakers. However, Sengun was taking Bryant’s lunch money, as Sengun already had a career-high 33 points, which resulted in a three-point game, with the Lakers in the lead at 119-116.

This Lakers team can compete with the best squads but always seems to play down to the worst ones. After a 9-0 Houston run, James returned to the game and promptly converted an and-1 in the paint with a fading jumper.

With the clock winding down below the one-minute mark, James called his number and proved that the bank is always open on MLK day, as he banked in a mid-range jumper to take a 135-131 lead with just 39.5 seconds left in regulation.

There were some late-game shenanigans, as there always are with the Lake Show, though the Rockets could not convert as they could earlier in the game. The final score read Lakers 140, Rockets 132.

 

Key Takeaways

 

Lakers vs Rockets
Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP

The Lakers snapped their three-game losing streak, improving to 20-24. James had a season-high 48 points (5-10 3PM, 11-12 FTs) to go along with eight rebounds and nine assists. Westbrook had 24 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Kendrick Nunn and Gabriel combined for 29 points, adding nine rebounds and two blocks.

James now has a 40-point game against every NBA franchise except for the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers play the Clippers two more times this year, with the next matchup slated for January 24th.

Sengun was elite, scoring 33 points (14-17 FGs, 2-2 3PM), 15 rebounds, six assists, and four blocks. Green did what he could with 23 points and five rebounds. Gordon had 19 points and eight assists. Kenyon Martin Jr. finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. Smith Jr. added 14 points, four rebounds, and four assists.

The Lakers set a record for the franchise with only two turnovers against Houston. Their previous low was just three turnovers, doing it twice, in 2001 and 2011.

Ham told reporters after the game on James, “I think it’s historic on a lot of different levels. For him to be at this point of his career and still be able to produce at the level in which he’s producing.”

 

The Lakers will now take on the Sacramento Kings. They’ll face off on Wednesday, January 18th, at 7:30 p.m. PT at the Crypto.com Arena. The game will be available on NBA League Pass, Spectrum SportsNet, and NBC Sports California.

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– Jake Ideguchi-Furukawa – Franchise Sports Media

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