Posted by hiphopmama on March 11, 2009
LA Lakers 102, Houston 96
That’s what we showed tonight: heart. And composure. And persistence. And even a little bit of that swagger that eluded us last year against Boston. We came out decent enough and ended up playing the first quarter even, but the Rockets jumped on us in the second and took an 11 point lead and all the momentum into halftime. I don’t know what Phil told them at halftime, but it worked, because the Lakers rediscovered their defense and held Houston to 19 points in the third quarter and slowly but surely chipped away at the lead. Instead of wilting in the face of pressure, they just kept at it, knowing that if it was close down the stretch, only one team had the necessary tools to close the deal.
We reclaimed the lead on a Vujacic jumper at the 9-minute mark of the fourth quarter and never looked back. It was still tight the rest of the way, with the Rockets hanging around and occasionally tying it up, but they never had quite enough to take it from us. Or more accurately, we never let them. We really won this one in the second half with our defense. We suffocated Yao Ming on the block, making him look like a total butterfingers out there, and they were unable to punish our hanging off the weak side by knocking down outside shots. One V. Wafer had another good game against us, as did Aaron Brooks, but Houston had no one to go to in those close late-game possessions, while we rode comfortably on Kobe’s back. He had only 6 points in the first half, but his 21 in the second – including 18 in the fourth quarter – buoyed us to the victory. He did it in typically spectacular fashion, with the extra twist being his jawing session with Ron Artest. It started when the two got tangled up halfway through the fourth, Kobe taking exception to Artest’s physical play and responding in kind. From then on, they never stopped the back-and-forth, all the way through the requisite free throws and final buzzer. Artest is a good defender, but he didn’t do much to stop Kobe tonight, as Kobe scored on pull-up jumpers and slashes to the basket, as well as from the line to close it out. It was exactly as Clyde Drexler said – if it’s close in the final minutes, it’s advantages Lakers simply because of the existence of number 24.
I rarely do this, so let’s make it count: the Houston announcers were really good in this one. Clyde Drexler and the other dude were completely painless during the whole game, which is rare indeed for announcers of teams taking on the Lakers. Kudos to them.
This was a much needed win after some extremely shaky play from us, especially going into the game tomorrow night against San Antonio. As I watched the game slip away from us in the second quarter, I started questioning the team, wondering if this would be the point in the season when it all slipped away. But then they found their resolve, played some D, and put the Rockets in their place, which is the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture. That’s pretty good considering they are without T-Mac, but still nowhere near challenging us in crunch time.
One final shout-out: to Josh Powell for his 17 points and 9 boards in his cameo as starting power forward in Lamar’s absence. That was a serious contribution from a player who has earned his minutes in our crowded rotation. That face-up jumper is deadly and could be real helpful down the line. Oh, and his slam dunk on Yao was the play of the night.