Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Postgame Grades and Analysis
The Lakers victory brings their record to .500 for the first time this season, as they have split their first 10 games down the middle. Meanwhile, the Rockets fall to 4-6 with the loss, and they still have a long way to go on the defensive end of the court.
Until Houston starts to play better team defense, they will have a hard time challenging the elite teams in the Western Conference on a nightly basis.
Kobe Bryant recorded the 18th triple-double of his career in what may have been the Lakers' most exciting game of the season. Teammate Dwight Howard also proved to be too much for the Rockets inside and continues to show flashes of excellence.
The rest of the NBA should start to get a little nervous about how well the Lakers starters are beginning to gel.
Let's take a look at how both teams graded out in the matchup.
Jeremy Lin: D
Linsanity isn't what it used to be, at least not yet this season.
Jeremy Lin facilitated the Houston Rockets offense well in the first half, as he compiled six assists by the halfway point. On the other hand, he didn't shoot the ball well, going just 2-for-6 from the field after the first two quarters.
The Rockets struggled on defense, and without Omer Asik on the floor to help, the Rockets are vulnerable to opposing guards getting to the rim with regularity.
Lin ended the night with only five points on a horrible 2-of-9 shooting from the floor. The lackluster marksmanship was all the more disappointing given that Darius Morris and Chris Duhon are not exactly world-class defenders.
Still, some silver lining: Lin finished the game with 10 assists. It's just hard to argue the assists outweighed his plus/minus differential, as Lin clocked out with a game-worst negative-20.
Darius Morris: B+
Morris tied his career-high in points in the first half alone, with 12 points by halftime.
As a second-year player, Morris has some promise as a point guard, but he is merely keeping Steve Nash's starting spot warm. Once Nash returns from injury, he'll fall back in the point guard rotation behind Chris Duhon and Steve Blake, who is suffering from an abdominal injury.
Morris finished the game with the 12 points and also tallied five assists and two steals while turning the ball over just twice.
The Lakers leaned on Morris in the absence of Nash and Blake, and he contributed exactly what the team needed from him.
James Harden: B-
James Harden had a rough first quarter from the floor, shooting just 1-of-6 and once again casting a shred of doubt on his tenuous superstardom.
While Harden has shown in the early part of the season that he can be the star, he will have to continue to adjust to drawing the other team's main focus defensively. The Rockets have clearly given Harden the green light on shot selection, and he ultimately finished the game with 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting.
Harden did find success when he took three-pointers early in the shot clock, as all of his long-range conversions came in such situations. And the reigning Sixth Man of the Year finished the game with a plus/minus differential of negative-10.
Since Harden played by far the most minutes of any Rockets player (38), he should not be criticized that heavily for posting a negative differential in what was a rough game for the entire team.
Kobe Bryant: A+
Some things never change.
Kobe Bryant showed off his basketball savviness at the end of the first quarter, when he managed to draw a shooting foul from Chandler Parsons from behind the arc. Kobe took full advantage of the opportunity, as he promptly drained all three attempts from the charity stripe.
From the opening tip, Bryant made it clear that he was looking to facilitate the offense by opening up favorable looks for teammates by driving the ball into the paint.
By the middle of the second quarter, Bryant was working on achieving the elusive first-half triple-double.
Kobe dished out his 10th assist to Pau Gasol on what was the Spaniard's 15,000th point of his career—a nice coincidence considering how much the two of them have accomplished together.
Bryant recorded the triple-double with around 5:40 left in the fourth quarter, the 18th of his illustrious career.
Kobe ended the game with a plus-14 differential, a team-best. He also finished the game with 22 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds on 50 percent shooting from the field.
The Black Mamba led the attack against the Rockets, and he did so masterfully.
Chandler Parsons: B
Per Terrance Harris and CBS Houston, Kobe Bryant had high praise of Chandler Parsons following a matchup last season, stating, "I love Parsons though, I do. I think he’s a terrific young player. I think he has a really bright future and I don’t say that a lot about a lot of people."
When the Black Mamba says that a player has a bright future, it's in our best interest to listen.
Parsons finished the game with the most points for the losing side, as he scored 24 points on a super-efficient 80 percent shooting from the field.
The future appears to be very bright for the Florida Gator product, as he also converted on 80 percent (4-of-5) of his shots from beyond the arc.
Metta World Peace: A
Metta World Peace looked great in the first quarter, almost like the Ron Artest of old.
He got to the rim three times in the opening quarter and would have converted on all three attempts had he not went for too much on one layup.
What is often forgotten about the new Los Angeles Lakers starting lineup is that World Peace was once an All-Star. He is not the same player any more, but World Peace can still play at a very high level at times.
World Peace finished the game with 15 points, three boards and two assists on 5-of-8 shooting and 29 minutes of floor time. His effort set the tone in the first quarter, and the Lakers generally coasted home from there, as the offense was clicking on all cylinders.
Patrick Patterson: C-
Patrick Patterson finished the game with a negative-16 plus/minus, and while the Rockets may have been blown out with him on the floor, the blame of this loss should be spread throughout the entire team.
Patterson was an efficient 53 percent from the field and also grabbed eight boards, but that simply was not enough to contend with L.A.'s offensive attack.
Pau Gasol: A
Pau Gasol looked like his usual self at both ends of the court in the first half.
In the Los Angeles Lakers' new faster-paced offense, Gasol will have plenty of chances to show off his passing ability, and when he was on the court in the first half, the Lakers outscored the Houston Rockets by 10 points.
Gasol finished with the plus-10 differential and in the process became the 10th international player in the league history to reach 15,000 points, which speaks to the level of excellence that Gasol has maintained at the game's highest level.
Opposing defenses cannot key on guarding Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard exclusively because Gasol is still one of the best power forwards in the league.
At the final buzzer, Gasol walked off the court with 17 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal while shooting 53 percent from the field.
Omer Asik: B
Omer Asik did what he usually does in the first quarter, which is protect the rim and grab a couple of rebounds.
When Asik exited the game with three minutes left in the first quarter, the Rockets defense fell apart and the Lakers went on a big run.
In the second quarter, Asik took an inadvertent elbow from Dwight Howard to the top of the head and was forced to the locker room for the remainder of the half.
The ex-Chicago Bulls backup was by far the most productive starter in terms of plus/minus differential, and had he not been forced to the locker room in the second quarter, he easily would have compiled his fifth double-double of the season.
Asik finished the game with eight points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes of action.
Dwight Howard: A
The Rockets are one of the few teams in the Western Conference that can come close to matching up with Howard inside, as Omer Asik has been solid thus far this year in the paint. Still, at the half, Dwight had scored 18 points on 8-of-10 shootingm while pulling down seven rebounds and blocking a shot.
Howard's strength advantage over the competition was apparent throughout the contest, and Dwight finished the game with a game-high 28 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. Howard shot 61 percent from the field, but just 50 percent from the line.
Howard is clearly working himself into game shape quickly and it probably will not be long until he is back to 100 percent.
Marcus Morris: B
In the absence of Carlos Delfino, Marcus Morris played more minutes off the bench in the first half than any other Houston Rockets bench player. Morris has played well for the Rockets so far this season and that could easily continue after his gutsy performance against the Lakers.
In the third quarter, Morris hit two three-pointers, which is something that he has been doing with more regularity this season. Through the first nine games, Morris is shooting 40.5 percent from behind the arc.
Morris finished the game with a neutral plus/minus differential, which suggests that he was one of the Rockets' best two or three overall players on the night.
The Houston coaching staff clearly trusts Morris with the starters are on the bench, as he took 12 shots and made five of them.
Antwan Jamison: C-
Antwan Jamison is still familiarizing himself with the reserve role, but the Los Angeles Lakers are hoping that he will eventually progress into the sixth man that this team needs.
The ex-Cleveland Cavaliers star finished the game with eight points in 19 minutes, while shooting 37.5 percent from the field.
Jamison has had a slow start so far this season, and that's fine for the time being. The Lakers will need more, however, when they take off on their postseason run come April.
Rockets Bench: C
The Houston Rockets trio of Toney Douglas, Cold Aldrich and Terrence Jones combined for 22 minutes in the first half, and were all involved in the run that the Rockets made in the second quarter against the Lakers bench.
Jones and Douglas were the only reserves to post a positive plus/minus differential by game's end, however.
The Rockets bench contributed 37 points to the Rockets' scoring effort—12 more than the Lakers bench produced.
Lakers Bench: D+
Jordan Hill and Chris Duhon both provided a spark off the bench. Duhon hit two three-pointers in the first half, while Jordan played tough defense inside the paint.
Hill finished the game with a plus/minus of plus-19 as the only Lakers bench player with a sizable contribution in the game.