What a stinker of a game by the Rockets. I was so geared up for this game and there was little to cheer about. Too many turnovers, total lack of ball movement and rhythm on offense (especially the 2nd and 3rd quarters), and not too much going on defensively led to a Lakers victory.
Just like in Game 2, the Lakers came out of the locker room firing. Kobe led the way and somehow the Rockets kept up and were only down 2 after the 1st. The problem for the Rockets was that the fast pace favored the Lakers and some bad turnovers were already giving the Lakers easy opportunities. In the 2nd quarter, both benches came into play and it felt like the Rockets should have taken the lead and control of the game, but they played every bit as mediocre as the Lakers were in that quarter. The Lakers led 50-48 at the half. The Rockets failed to capitalize on a whole bunch of missed shots and Lakers turnovers.
The 3rd quarter was pitiful for the Rockets. Whichever Rocket had the ball on offense (Artest, often) would dribble right into the teeth of the Lakers defense and either turn the ball over or get a bad shot. It was particularly frustrating because I could sense the crowd wanted to get involved, but the Rockets were playing so badly on both ends throughout the 3rd quarter that there was nothing to cheer about. The Lakers took a commanding 12 point lead at the end of the 3rd.
Then the wheels fell off the wagon in the 4th. Yao started limping noticably on both ends of the court, yet he refused to come out of the game. More on that later. The Lakers had a large lead (8 points with less than 1 minute left) very late in the game and advanced the ball up the court. Gasol got the ball near the free throw line and instead of dribbling out of traffic and using clock, Pau decided he was going to go for a dunk. [insert manual buzzer] Wrong answer.
As Gasol went to the hoop, Artest met him in mid-air and knocked the ball out of his hands. Gasol landed awkwardly, but he was not hurt. Despite Gasol’s reputation, this was not a flop. He got hit by a good, hard foul by an opponent who won’t let you just run up the score on them in their house. The refs called it a flagrant foul 2 and ejected Artest from the game just like that. It looked like a hard foul, but a clean foul. Artest went for and got the ball, he did not make contact with Gasol above the shoulders, and Artest did not follow through and throw Gasol down or otherwise slam him to the ground.
The game was pretty much decided at that point so the refs are not to blame for the outcome of this game. My hope was that the obviously bad call would not affect Artest’s status for Game 4.
Updated May 9, some time in the evening
Well, we found out why Yao was limping around in Game 3:
Yao (broken foot) out for season
Horrible news. Without Yao, we might be able to win 1 or 2 games from the Lakers, but not 3 out of 4 which is the path to the championship.