The Lakers knew what was at stake and understood the importance of winning Game 2 and came out and played determined playoff basketball. The Lakers were able to raise their level of play and perform with a much-needed sense of urgency.
There was a bit of angst in the air in Los Angeles prior to the start of this game. The Lakers realized that they’re being challenged and planned to respond by being aggressive and active from the start.
The first half was really the tale of two different quarters of basketball. The Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant, came out on-fire, knocking down shots. Los Angeles with Lamar Odom in the starting lineup was able to play the game at their pace and control the tempo.
The Lakers shot 86 percent from the field, with Kobe Bryant scoring 15 points in the quarter, including a 22-foot jumper to end the quarter as the Lakers raced out to a 39-25 first quarter lead.
The Rockets were down by 14 points, but clearly not scared. Houston came out and turned the table on the Lakers, tightening the screws defensively and sending in the reserves to change the pace of the game.
Houston’s reserves did that and more; they sparked the team into outscoring the Lakers 32-18. Carl Landry at one point had single-handedly outscored the Lakers in the quarter 16-14; he finished the game with a career playoff-high of 21 points off the bench. The Lakers shot 4-of-14 as a team and saw the Rockets take the lead.
Rockets center Yao Ming was saddled with foul trouble, collecting three personal fouls in the first half. Ron Artest had another solid game, scoring 25 points. Kobe Bryant’s three-point shot right before halftime tied the score at 57.
The Lakers are caught up in a dogfight and have to battle their way past a physical and determined opponent with the tools necessary to challenge them.
The second half saw the Lakers take the lead and push it up to as many as 10 points three times in the quarter. There was a lot of talking back-and-forth among the players and before you knew, it tempers flared.
The score was 86-74 when Lamar Odom fouled Luis Scola. Scola, Lamar, and Luke Walton began jawing at each other and got in each other's faces. Referee Joey Crawford, in an attempt to maintain control of the game, hit Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, and Luis Scola with technical fouls.
Shane Battier knocked down the technical foul shot, making the score 86-75. The game was physical all night, but with less than 15 seconds to go in the quarter, Scola came out to the top of the key to screen Derek Fisher who was guarding Kyle Lowry and Fisher wasn’t having it.
He met the screen with a combination of a forearm shiver and a shoulder, knocking Scola to the floor. He was accessed a flagrant 2 foul and ejected from the game, he will more than likely get a call from the league office informing him of how long his suspension will be.
The move got him ejected but clearly inspired his teammates. Derek Fisher later stated that he wasn’t retaliating against Scola for the dust-up previously, but the timing of the foul makes that debatable.
The game also had some drama on the sidelines at the end of the quarter, as Rockets guard Von Wafer, for whatever reason, exchanged words with head coach Rick Adelman. After catching a whiff of the madness coming out of Wafer's mouth, Adelman calmly sent him to an early shower.
The ejections didn’t stop there, with the Lakers up 94-84 in the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest were locked up, fighting for rebounding position underneath the basket. There was a lot of contact, it got physical, and Ron Artest felt that Kobe hit him with an elbow in the throat.
He wasn’t happy about it and told the officials what had happened and then told Kobe about it. He was ejected for pointing at Kobe and gesturing toward his throat. He got in Kobe’s face and informed him that he was hitting the wrong person.
The Lakers went on to win Game 2 111-98. In the process of playing a tough, physical game, the birth of a long playoff series emerged. Kobe Bryant finished the game with 40 points, his seventh career 40-point playoff game.
The Lakers responded to tie the series. Every game for the rest of the series will be physical, but this one saw Ron Artest and Derek Fisher ejected by the referees, Von Wafer ejected by his head coach, and total of five technical fouls called.
The Lakers' speed game was a huge factor in this game. The Lakers outscored the Rockets 20-5 on fast break points. Pau Gasol had a solid game with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
I'd like to take this time to welcome the Los Angeles Lakers to the Playoffs. They'll need to play every game with the intensity shown Wednesday, without any players being thrown out.
The Lakers outrebounded the Rockets, had more assists, less turnovers, and blocked more shots. They were led by their All-Stars as Kobe and Pau combined for 62 points.
Ladies and gentlemen, you might want to fasten your seat belts, because it might be a rough ride but we have ourselves a series, Game 3 will be in Houston on May 8.
Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times