Not the best of games to be gentle from Jeremy Lin, playing against his former team, but that didn’t stop the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant and eased by the fact that Dwight Howard wasn’t playing, from beating the Houston Rockets 98-92 and picking up their first back-to-back win sequence of the season.
Jeremy Lin opened the game with a 3-pointer and then was hardly noticed the rest of the way, finishing with 3 points and 4 assists. The ball hardly moved through him and he didn’t try forcing himself on the game, finishing with just 1-of-5 from the field in 30 minutes of basketball, joining the Lakers in the final 3:36 to try and close out the game. With no interior defense by the Rockets what so ever which meant that the Lakers, on a rare occasion, got to dominate the paint, Lin’s weak performance didn’t really slow them down.
Howard didn’t play, officially for a sprained right knee, but he also has a lot of other things to worry about. Without Howard, the Rockets started Tarik Black in the lineup, playing for 35 minutes. Surprisingly, it was when Black was off the floor (+11 with him) that they fell apart. In short, there’s no other center except for Howard since Asik got traded to the Pelicans, something Morey should seriously think about.
Bryant scored 29 points and added 7 assists, but that was because the ball always went through him in another very selfish performance. He shot only 10-of-28 from the field, 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. An interesting tidbit from ESPN puts his efforts this season in perspective: According to player tracking data, Kobe Bryant is averaging just 28 passes per game this season; 160th in the NBA. He’s attempting 23.8 field goal attempts per game. That is the worst FGA to pass ratio in the NBA among players who play at least 20 minutes per game this season. Mike Dunleavy (8.4 FGA pg) and Bryant are the only players in the league to average at least 30 minutes per game and still have less than 30 passes per game. The average among players that are averaging at least 30 minutes per game this season is 48 passes per game.
Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer didn’t have too much trouble in the paint, outscoring the Rockets by 18 points in the paint. The Lakers also dominated the glass, grabbing 14 offensive rebounds to only six from the Rockets. James Harden was actually quite responsible with his shooting, scoring 24 points on 7-of-11 from the field and adding 7 assists, but he did turn the ball over six times. In a game with a lot of players who can’t or won’t play serious defense, Harden once again stood out, and not in a good way.
Nick Young continues to be a lightning rod of positivity for the Lakers with 16 points off the bench. It’s never wise to attribute wins in basketball to a player, but the Lakers are 2-for-2 since Young came back from his injury. The good thing about Young? The Lakers don’t really need to play good basketball for him to shine, taking his cure from the school of Kobe Bryant.
This wasn’t a very good game from the Lakers, except for the strong finish, which even included some nice plays on defense. They played against a team hobbled with the loss of their center, who is probably the best in the league when it comes to defense at the position. Bryant keeps shooting and mostly missing, which comes at a cost of involving an important player like Lin. A different opponent on a day like this wouldn’t have been so easy to beat.