Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets: Postgame Grades and Analysis
The Lakers dropped yet another game to an inferior opponent, falling 107-105 to the Houston Rockets. They were coming off a tough loss at home to the Orlando Magic.
At this point, it doesn't seem we can keep calling the Lakers' opponents inferior when most of them now have records nearly as good or better than the 8-10 Lakers.
Houston improved to 9-8 on the year, behind the strength of a bench that put up over half their scoring output. James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons all struggled, and Kobe Bryant scored 39 points.
That doesn't usually sound like a formula for winning, but as you'll see in this slideshow, the Rockets got contributions from some lesser known contributors to make the difference in this victory.
Point Guard: Chris Duhon vs. Jeremy Lin
No one really expected LA Lakers third string Chris Duhon to finish with more points and more assists than the Rockets Jeremy Lin, yet somehow he did.
Yes, Lin saw under 20 minutes for the game, as a result of Toney Douglas having his best game of the season, but Lin didn't produce while he did play either.
Lin hit just 2-of-8 from the floor and had two turnovers. He battled foul trouble, but his lack of minutes were more a result of Douglas' stellar play off the bench. Duhon meanwhile was unspectacular, but solid. He hit 2-of-4 from the floor and had a balanced line of six points, seven assists and five rebounds.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant vs. James Harden
James Harden had an off night. He struggled to get much going but remained aggressive the whole way and had a good game save the fact that none of his shots were falling.
Harden finished with six assists, two of which were crucial dump offs to Greg Smith around the basket in the fourth quarter. His 10 rebounds also offset his poor shooting performance as Harden found a way to make a big impact on a night he shot a horrid 3-of-19 from the floor.
He had his defensive struggles with Kobe Bryant, too. Kobe did his usual thing, putting up 39 points on 14-of-31 shooting, and hitting a key three late in the game to cut the lead from four to one, following a Greg Smith pair of free throws.
Kobe got to the line 12 times and attacked the entire game. Kobe also grabbed six board and dished out a couple assists, on an night when only Metta World Peace really looked to contribute a lot offensively.
Small Forward: Metta World Peace vs. Chandler Parsons
Metta World Peace has just been vintage Ron Artest all season. He scored 15 on 4-of-7 shooting and hit one of his two three point field goals, while his defensive assignment, Chandler Parsons, struggled all night, going just 5-of-16 from the floor and posting one of the worst plus-minus differentials on the Rockets (-18).
Parsons did grab five boards and dish out four assists, compared to MWP's four and zero, but Metta controlled Parsons rather well. Parsons has been having a breakout season, so MWP's contributions offensively and defensively kept the Lakers ahead most of the night.
World Peace: B+
Power Forward: Antawn Jamison vs. Patrick Patterson
Antawn Jamison got the start due to Pau Gasol being out for the night, and he made the most of it. Jamison hit 6-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-4 from three-point range to post 15 points and he also grabbed nine boards and dished out two assists.
Jamison rendered Patrick Patterson ineffective and quiet most of the night, and when Marcus Morris was on the floor, nothing changed. His defense was better that we realized he had left at this point in his career, and the Lakers have a great sixth man when Gasol returns.
Center: Dwight Howard vs Omer Asik
The Hack-a-Dwight strategy will be a huge black mark on Dwight Howard's performances until he improves his free throw shooting. With 3:38 to go in the fourth quarter, Carlos Delfino fouled Dwight Howard in what would be the first of five fouls in the next minute and a half in an attempt to claw back in the game at the hands of Howard's bricks.
Howard shot just 5-of-10 from the line over that span, the same mark he posted in the Lakers' loss to the Orlando Magic on Sunday evening. He played well enough save the missed free throws, but his role appears to have changed significantly from his days in Orlando, anyway.
Now more of a rebounding and defensive presence, Howard attempted only nine field goals, and hit four, en route to 16 points and 12 rebounds. Will he begin to dominate more when Nash returns?
Omer Asik nearly posted a double-double but didn't return after picking up his fourth foul due to the strong play of Greg Smith. Asik finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds while hitting 5-of-8 from the floor.
Sixth Man: Jodie Meeks vs. Carlos Delfino
Carlos Delfino came with high energy the entire game and out-shot and outplayed Jodie Meeks. Delfino was just one of three Rockets bench players to have huge games (more on this later) and was playing passing lanes and disrupting the Lakers' offensive flow the entire night.
There's not really much that needs to be said about Meeks' game: he just couldn't hit shots.
Delfino made just 3-of-10 from downtown, but on a night with Harden struggling and Lin not doing much of anything, his contributions proved vital.
The bench was the story of the game for the Rockets. Three of their top four scorers came off the bench, led by Toney Douglas' 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting, and also paced by Delfino's 15 and Greg Smith's monster 21 point, nine rebound performance.
Smith was especially active, finishing around the hoop, getting to the line (where he hit 7-of-8) and even swatting away a couple shots. He had four offensive rebounds and a number of tap outs that led to team rebounds and extra possessions.
Smith was huge in this game and the Rockets wouldn't have won it without him coming in and providing the lift on a night when Lin, Harden and Parsons all struggled.
Delfino's defense keyed a fast break that led to a Douglas layup that cut it to seven with six minutes to go, forcing a Lakers' time out. Smith came back with a three point play to cut it to four. The Rockets were clicking the entire second half, on the high energy of the bench.
The Lakers bench had a typical game, but was missing its usual contributions from Jamison who was pressed into starting. They shot 8-of-22 from the floor for 20 points in total. The Rockets bench had 59 of the Rockets' 107 points.