Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets: Postgame Grades and Analysis

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2014

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 8:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets drives against Wesley Johnson #11 of the Los Angeles Lakers on January 8, 2014 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
Bill Baptist/Getty Images

James Harden scored 17 of his 38 points in the third quarter as the Houston Rockets pulled away from the Los Angeles Lakers for a 113-99 win on Wednesday night.

The Rockets trailed at halftime but outscored the Lakers 33-15 in the third period to seize control of the game.

Dwight Howard posted 20 points and 13 rebounds for Houston.

The Rockets overcame 22 missed free throws, 14 of those misses coming courtesy of Howard as Los Angeles continuously fouled him intentionally late in the fourth quarter.

Nick Young led Los Angeles, which shot 40.9 percent from the floor, with 25 points.

The Lakers committed 18 turnovers, while Houston only coughed the ball up 10 times.


Key Player Grades

Los Angeles Lakers

Pau Gasol, Power Forward

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 8:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers works the ball against Jeremy Lin #7 of the Houston Rockets during the game at the Toyota Center on January 8, 2014 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees t
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Pau Gasol had a very nice outing in the loss, recording 21 points and 12 rebounds. However, most of those points came in the first half (15).

More importantly, Gasol shot an efficient 8-of-13 from the floor and went 5-of-6 from the charity stripe.

Pau was very quiet when the Lakers needed him in the second half, so that has to count against his overall grade, but his numbers were just too solid to ignore.

Gasol also handed out three dimes.

Grade: A-


Jodie Meeks, Shooting Guard

Since when did Jodie Meeks start drawing fouls like James Harden?

Meeks went 9-of-10 from the free-throw line en route to 21 points in this one. Unfortunately for Meeks, he didn't shoot the ball all that well, going 5-of-13.

Had Meeks knocked a few more of his good looks down, he may have ended up with 30.

Regardless, you have to appreciate the way Meeks has augmented his game this season. He is a bargain for the Lakers right now.

Grade: B+


Wesley Johnson, Small Forward

Wesley Johnson really struggled with his shot against the Rockets, posting a 4-of-13 clip. He did have a nice acrobatic layup, though. Check it out below.

Johnson compiled 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals in 31 minutes.

The overall stat line isn't bad, but the efficiency is.

Grade: C-


Kendall Marshall, Point Guard

Jan 8, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall (12) reacts to a play during the first quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

This was a humbling performance for Kendall Marshall after he played so well in his prior three contests.

Marshall put up a line of five points, eight assists and five rebounds, turning the ball over six times and shooting a putrid 2-of-13 from the floor.

Also, despite not having much of an outside shot, Marshall insisted on hoisting up threes, going 1-of-6 from beyond the arc.

The eight dimes and surprising presence on the glass save Marshall from an "F."

Grade: D-


Robert Sacre, Center

Robert Sacre played 14 minutes and picked up three fouls, two of them coming while trying to defend Howard in the post.

Other than that, Sacre wasn't heard from much in this one. He didn't score a point and grabbed three rebounds.

Grade: D-


Nick Young, Sixth Man

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 8:  Nick Young #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots against the Houston Rockets on January 8, 2014 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this pho
Bill Baptist/Getty Images

Props to Nick Young for a good game.

Swaggy P recorded 25 points off an efficient 10-of-20 clip in this one, helping keep the Lakers in the game for two-and-a-half quarters.

He did a fine job of creating his shot off the dribble. He also did some work on the boards, bringing down six rebounds in 37 minutes.

To put the cherry on top, Young did not register a single turnover.

Grade: A



Jordan Hill was very solid, posting 10 points and eight rebounds (five offensive) and taking advantage of mismatches inside. He also shot 5-of-8.

Chris Kaman came in and gave Los Angeles 14 decent minutes, tallying five points and five rebounds, although his unhappiness about his lack of playing time persists.

Because LA is so decimated by injuries, Ryan Kelly saw 14 minutes as well, but the rookie picked up five fouls in that span. Yikes.

Grade: B


Houston Rockets

Dwight Howard, Center

Jan 8, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets power forward Dwight Howard (12) drives to the basket against Los Angeles Lakers center Robert Sacre (50) during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

Howard really struggled offensively in this one, throwing up some awkward-looking shots in the post and never getting into any kind of rhythm.

Then, he fell victim to Hack-a-Dwight late in the contest, missing six straight free throws (and then several more after a make) as the Lakers employed the strategy that opponents used on Shaquille O'Neal back in the day.

However, Howard made up for his offensive struggles on the defensive end, shutting down Pau Gasol in the second half while collecting four steals overall.

There were a few times when Howard tried to make a tough block rather than stay down low for the rebound, but that was only because the Rockets had no other shot-blockers on the floor during those moments.

Dwight finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds, shooting 5-of-14 from the floor and 10-of-24 from the free-throw line.

Obviously, the horrific performance from the charity stripe costs Howard dearly, regardless of his defensive impact.

Grade: C+


James Harden, Shooting Guard

Jan 8, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) reacts after scoring a basket during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

Harden was absolutely sensational against the Lakers.

The 2-guard eviscerated LA to the tune of 38 points (which tied a season high) off 14-of-23 shooting, getting to the basket at will and wreaking havoc in transition.

With the game close in the third quarter, Harden went off, dropping half of his total points and capping it with a Eurostep that left Ryan Kelly picking his shorts from up off the floor.

Harden, who is much-maligned defensively, also did a terrific job playing the passing lanes, racking up five steals.

He dished out four assists for good measure.

Grade: A+


Jeremy Lin, Point Guard

This was a so-so outing for Jeremy Lin.

The floor general posted 13 points, four rebounds and four assists, but he shot only 4-of-12 from the field (1-of-5 from deep) and 4-of-7 from the charity stripe.

That being said, Lin wasn't too turnover-prone in this one, recording only four giveaways. He also did a fine job on Kendall Marshall defensively.

Grade: C


Terrence Jones, Power Forward

You really have to love Terrence Jones' game.

The high-activity forward registered a double-double in Houston's win, tallying 15 points and 13 rebounds (six of them offensive). He also had a big putback dunk in the first period.

Jones shot a solid 7-of-14 from the floor and provided a nice spark for the Rockets when they were trudging along offensively early on.

Grade: B+


Ronnie Brewer, Small Forward

Because Chandler Parsons was ailing with a bum knee, Ronnie Brewer got the start at small forward.

The results were less than satisfactory. Brewer went scoreless, missing both of his shot attempts in 23 minutes. Not that Brewer is necessarily in there to put the ball in the hoop, but still.

Also, despite the fact that the Rockets won by double figures, Brewer was a minus-one.

Grade: D-


Omri Casspi, Sixth Man

Jan 8, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets small forward Omri Casspi (18) rests for a moment during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

Omri Casspi came in and gave the Rockets 21 very productive minutes on Wednesday night.

The forward tallied nine points, six rebounds and four assists, flashing a couple of good finishes around the rim and some versatility overall.

Casspi went 3-of-5 from the field and played a significant role in Houston's third-quarter run.

Grade: A



Casspi wasn't the only one to provide a spark.

Aaron Brooks did a superb job, scoring nine points all off three-pointers. He went 3-of-5 from distance, including a backbreaking triple as the shot clock expired to put the Rockets up 14 in the third period. The little man also hauled in three rebounds.

Donatas Motiejunas contributed six points and five rebounds, but he went 2-of-7 and missed all four of his long-range attempts.

Francisco Garcia was relatively quiet in his 22 minutes, scoring three points off a lone trey.

Grade: B+


What's Next for the Lakers?

It doesn't get any easier. The struggling Lakers take on the rival Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, and after a home game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, they will embark on a seven-game road trip.

Hopefully, Los Angeles starts getting healthy. It is going to need a lot of bodies for the next couple of weeks.

This could get ugly. Actually, I should say this could get uglier.


What's Next for the Rockets?

The Rockets will now be on the road for four games, having contests against the Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics and New Orleans Pelicans.

Definitely not the toughest road trip in the world.

It would greatly behoove Houston to feast on the relatively weak competition of those upcoming four games, as the January schedule gets tougher afterward.


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