Rockets lose Game 2, 111-98

Begin abridged version : As expected, the Lakers came out of the locker room firing and got out to a big early lead. Kobe led the way and the other Lakers followed suit. To make things worse, Yao got into early foul trouble and never really recovered. Lakers baskets were compounded by Rockets turnovers and lack of rebounding and the 1st quarter mercifully ended with the Lakers up 39-25.

Then both benches came into the game. The Lakers started jacking up ill-advised shots instead of controlling the tempo and managing their lead. Meanwhile, Carl Landry was a one man gang and tore up the Lakers lack of defense. As the Laker crowd fell silent, the Rockets actually took the lead late in the 2nd quarter. Unfortunately, Kobe closed the half with a 3 that tied the game. Past Rockets teams would have gotten into a fetal position and probably gone into halftime down 20 or 25 on the road, but this team has a toughness that hasn’t been around here since Barkley, Hakeem, and Drexler.

The Lakers came out of halftime, just like they did to open the game, with a blitz of baskets. Yao was not a factor, picked up his 4th foul, and the Rockets were reeling, but trying to hang in. For some reason, Landry did not reenter the game until very late in the 3rd. Without Landry’s scoring and presence around the basket, the Rockets lost control of the game and ended the 3rd quarter down 86-77.

A couple of Rockets turnovers early in the 4th doomed them as Kobe pushed the Laker lead to 14 and they never looked back. Lakers win 111-98. End abridged version

Did Derek Fisher do something notable in Game 2? His flagrant foul 2 on Scola was totally intentional and warrants a 1 game suspension. I understand a smaller guy needs to sends a message to a big guy setting a pick on him, but give him a shoulder in the chest or a forearm below the belt as you run through the pick. Also, that should happen earlier in the game, not in the 4th quarter. Fisher took 3 steps toward Scola before unloading a high forearm with all his weight behind it. Scola had not even set the pick yet and Lowry, who had the ball, was 10 feet away and had not yet dribbled toward the pick.

Memo to the Lakers: Scola is our version of Sasha Vujacic, except Scola can actually play. Maybe your big men should step up and beat Scola down if you don’t like the way he plays.

Ron-Ron…he got the quick boot when I thought he deserved just a technical foul, but he has to know that he’s on a short leash with the refs especially when it involves the MVP runner-up Kobe. His post-game interview at his locker to explain the play and his actions surprisingly made sense and came off as honest when I fully expected “spin”. Sure, the Rockets can’t win without him, but this game was lost at the time and I don’t have a problem with Ron letting the Lakers (and his Rockets) know that we won’t just lay down.

The Rockets can win this series, but they need to hold the Lakers under 100, not let them get out to 10+ point leads, and reduce their turnovers.

T-mac…although the Rockets have played better without T-mac on the floor, the reason is not because T-mac was a negative influence on the other players. The reason is because T-mac, Battier, and Artest – 3 guys – were competing for 2 positions. That problem was never solved until T-mac was out with season-ending surgery. Even if T-mac was 100% healthy, Battier and Artest give you the most defense and that seems to be what’s most needed to complement Yao. As good as Artest can be on offense, he’s nowhere near a healthy T-mac. I think Artest needs to start. Didn’t seem like Ron could just turn it on coming off the bench. Then, it seems like the obvious answer is to bench Battier, but that guy is so good on the defensive side that he’s like having a 6th defender.

I wish we could have seen an end-of-big-game lineup with all 3 guys out there. Artest is strong enough to guard most PFs in stints just like Robert Horry did back in the Rockets’ championship years. Battier would get in the other team’s best scorer’s jersey. T-mac would create easy shots for himself or teammates off the dribble. Probably Scola would be on the bench to close the game with that lineup.

But, alas, with T-mac’s microfracture surgery, I don’t think we’ll ever see him at 100% on the floor together with Battier and Artest. Sadly, I don’t see T-mac suiting up in the Rockets red beyond this final year of his max contract.

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