The last time the Rockets played in L.A. they were drubbed by 40.
In Game 7 they were pummeled and finally sent home after a much-prolonged series.
Kobe Bryant scored only 14, but that proved more than enough thanks to Pau Gasol's 18 rebounds, which kept the smaller Rockets' off the glass and cut down on second-chance points.
Aaron Brooks had 13 for the Rockets. Ron Artest contributed a measly eight on 3-of-10 shooting.
Los Angeles started the game on an 8-0 spree and was never challenged after that.
Kobe brought a more aggressive attitude and drove the ball to the basket twice in L.A's opening possessions. He created opportunities for himself and his teammates throughout the game.
Artest started off with two air balls.
The Rockets finally got on the board with 6:53 remaining thanks to a pair of free throws by Brooks. Houston began the game 0-for-12 from the field and didn't get its first field goal until 7:15 had elapsed.
The Rockets' offense was stagnant with none of the low-post presence they had before, first with Yao and then with Luis Scola in Game Six.
At one point Scola drifted out to the perimeter and had his shot rejected by Gasol, which ignited a fast-break. Without a post presence, Houston became a jump-shooting team, which it isn't.
Later in the period Houston fed its bigs on three straight trips, and Carl Landry and Scola capitalized. The tandem went 2-for-3 and opened up options on the wings.
On defense, Houston needed to send more help toward the three-point line and chase L.A.'s shooters. The Rockets should have applied this strategy to Trevor Ariza in particular. He knocked down two threes, which pushed the lead from eight to 11.
Los Angeles led 22-12 after one.
The Rockets started by pounding the ball inside to Scola vs. Gasol, which caused Luke Walton to come over to help. The result: a defensive three-second call on Los Angeles and a free-throw for the Rockets.
If nothing else, Houston should have understood at that point that throwing the ball into the post initiated its offense and allowed it to scope the defense and figure out the right play.
The Rockets also were unable to find the touch from long range. They were still without a made three-point basket by the closing minutes of the second. They started 0-for-7 from downtown before an Artest triple with less than a minute to go.
For the Lakers, Jordan Farmar did a nice job of penetrating and scored on a three-point play for Los Angeles. He got an assist after dishing to Gasol under the basket after attracting several Rockets' defenders.
The Lakers began to punish the Rockets' smaller front line by dumping the ball down low to Andre Bynum. He had eight points, five rebounds, and two blocked shots. Gasol also picked up the memo and dominated the glass tallying 11 points and 12 rebounds before intermission.
Los Angeles led 51-31 at half.
Rockets coach Rick Adelman said his team needed to change before the game grew out of reach. But Houston waltzed out from the intermission as stale as in the first half.
Bryant cemented the game for L.A by scoring six in the the opening minutes. He also drew Shane Battier's fourth foul and found open looks on consecutive possessions for both Derek Fisher and Gasol.
On a positive note for Houston, Aaron Brooks awakened and drained back-to-back threes to reduce the Lakers' lead to below 20. He was first Rocket to reach double-figures.
However, as the period progressed Brooks began to display his inexperience. He was called for traveling in transition as he left his feet and came down with the ball still in his hands. He could have rifled the ball to a streaking Scola to his left instead.
Moments later on a fast break, Brooks blew past Farmar but was stripped by Ariza. Brooks is right-handed, but instead of going to his right he should have gone left. It would have created a near-impossible angle for Ariza to mug him and would have resulted in a layup.
You can't expect the world from a still-developing second-year player just thrust into a mentally grinding Game Seven atmosphere. These are a few areas in which he will improve in the next few years.
The Lakers led 69-50 going into the final quarter.
Los Angeles kept its foot on the gas.
Gasol continued to dominate Scola and the Rockets' front line as he posted a Superman-like 19 points, 18 rebounds, and three blocks.
The crowd serenaded the Rockets with appropriate goodbye chants.
Los Angeles now moves on to the Western Conference Finals, where the Lakers will meet the Denver Nuggets.
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