With news that Yao Ming was going to be out for the remainder of the postseason, everybody, including myself, had written the Rockets off. Nobody expected them to even win a game.
"It's frustrating, but you have to be positive because it is already better than last year," Ming said Sunday. "It's already happened so I need to look forward and see what's the next step.
"I'm sorry for the team that I cannot play, but I have confidence in them," he said. "We played as a team, as a group for a long time this year. We understand that only the team can win the game, not a person, and no one is above this team and everyone on this team understands that."
With both Yao and Dikembe Mutombo out, Chuck Hayes started in their place.
The Lakers started the game by playing relaxed defense, committing careless turnovers. That would continued through out the whole game.
Inspired by Shane Battier's pregame speech, the Rockets came out firing, scoring nine unanswered points before Kobe Bryant's step-back jumper made it 9-2. The Rockets then answered, extending the lead to 19-4.
With Yao Ming out of the lineup, it left room for other players to step up, mainly Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks. Battier finished the first half with 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc. He had five three-pointers at the end of the game for a total of 23 points.
Aaron Brooks made the Rockets' management look smart for trusting him at the starting guard spot, as he added in a career-high 34 points on 4-for-9 shooting from behind the arc and 12-for-20 from the field.
After building their biggest lead, 29 points, the Lakers looked baffled. Kobe Bryant had a rather pedestrian night with only 15 points and Pau Gasol finished with 30 points and 9 rebounds. The Rockets led 54-36 at the half.
Lamar Odom landed hard on his back after he took it to the rack, only to get called for an offensive foul against Battier. He did not return to the game after suffering back spasms. He also got called for a technical foul after yapping about the call.
The Rockets finished the third quarter by a alley-oop from Artest to Brooks to cap off a 28-19 third quarter win.
Artest had 8 points in the game, but contributed with 10 rebounds and six assists.
Andrew Bynum's knee injury once again limited him to 11 minutes, zero points, and 2 rebounds.
Led by Kobe Bryant, the Lakers attempted a final comeback, outscoring the Rockets 33-16 in the fourth. They went as far as cutting the lead to 10, but were not able to get the job done.
This was the lowest scoring first half for the Lakers this season. They only grabbed two offensive rebounds and four fast break points during that half.
Game 5 will be back in the Staples Center in Los Angles on Tuesday 10:30 EST/7:30 Pacific on TNT.