The Rockets got the bad news on Saturday that Yao Ming has a broken foot and will miss the remainder of the NBA Playoffs, but the team that suffered most in his absence was Los Angeles
The Lakers came into Game 4 thinking they had an advantage. Little did they realize they had walked right into a trap game.
The Rockets lost their biggest player and, in some ways, were undersized and undermanned. But the way Houston played, injuries didn't slow them down, they set the Rockets free to open the floor and run.
The Lakers had an embarrassing effort and couldn't match the intensity or energy level of the Rockets. Houston came out with a tremendous amount of energy, beneficiaries of a total team effort that helped them take a 9-point lead and never look back.
The Rockets destroyed the Lakers with the dribble penetration of Aaron Brooks, who played pick-and-roll basketball to perfection, knocking down shots. The Rockets also used excellent ball movement and made the extra pass to find the open man.
Houston held a 29-16 lead at the end of the first quarter and continued to increase their lead. At halftime, the score was 54-36.
The only Rocket who didn’t knock down his shots was Ron Artest. Brooks put on an excellent 30-point performance. Shane Battier had a solid 20-point effort, knocking down five three-point shots.
The defense of Battier, Artest, and Chuck Hayes were also huge in this game, but offensively the dribble penetration, ball movement, and lack of defensive effort by the Lakers were enough to provided several open shots and Houston took full advantage of the space provided.
The Rockets were on fire and never took their foot off the accelerator, continuing to increase their lead, which reached as high as 29 points. The score at the end of the third quarter was an amazing 83-54.
The Lakers put up a modest effort in the fourth quarter to cut the lead down to 13 points, but the game was already over by halftime.
Los Angeles was outplayed in every way and will have to make some adjustments to be ready for Game 5 back at Staples Center.
The Lakers took a beat down and, in the process, missed out on a golden opportunity to take a commanding lead in this series.
This is now a three game series, and the Lakers have to bounce back in Game 5.
Photo Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times