Takeaways from Los Angeles Lakers' Grudge Match vs. Houston Rockets
The Lakers' porous defense was no match for the Rockets, as James Harden, Dwight Howard and company were able to manhandle the Lakers on their home court, proving that this injury-riddled team has completely lost its edge and has very little left to cling to for the remainder of this lost season.
The Lakers crowd expended plenty of effort making sure Howard knew how the City of Angles felt about him, but the on-court product lacked any of the venom and vitriol of a proper grudge match.
The Howard storyline was edged to the margins somewhat before the game as news broke that the Lakers had traded Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors for Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
Y! Sources: The Los Angeles Lakers trade guard Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors. http://t.co/ddMbY2ZV5W— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 20, 2014
The Lakers played like they expected nothing but bad news all night long.
Harden finished with 29 points and was the obvious star of the show, but explaining his continued assault on the league's perimeter defenses can be a bit redundant after a while.
He makes the spectacular routine, and there were plenty of other notable takeaways from this grudge match that ended up decidedly one-sided.
Dwight Howard Takes Abuse, Gives It Right Back
It became very clear early on that it was the Rockets night, and the Lakers fans seeking any sort of schadenfreude were doubly disappointed by the strong performance put on by Howard.
Howard hardly seemed fazed by the hostile atmosphere, finishing with a solid 20 points, 13 boards, three blocks and two steals.
He dominated Chris Kaman in the paint, and he may not be the world-beater he was in Orlando, but he's certainly better than any current Lakers' frontcourt player.
His physicality makes him a problem for any team in the NBA right now, and as long as he can stay healthy, he can key a deep playoff run for the Rockets with performances like he had Wednesday night.
Howard battered and bruised his opponents, both giant and insect-sized.
I screamed at Dwight that he sucked and he turned to me and said thank you. Now I feel guilty. The guy went and became a human being on me— Flea (@flea333) February 20, 2014
Lakers fans have plenty of pride, but to see the one who got away flourishing in a new city with a new team can still be all to painful (especially if he has giant, swinging elbows).
Farmar Needs Time, but He May Not Have That Luxury
Jordan Farmar got some much-needed game action off the bench in Wednesday night's loss, but he looked like a player who maybe came back a night too soon, as he stumbled through 19 minutes of subpar basketball.
Farmar contributed just nine points against six turnovers off the bench, and considering the Lakers bench couldn't fill out a bobsledding roster at the moment, he was another missing piece.
With the point guard situation stabilized by Marshall, Farmar will certainly be absorbing more of the departing Steve Blake's minutes, which shouldn't be too much of a drop-off, considering Farmar has averaged a respectable 9.3 points and 4.8 assists so far this season.
As for the rest of the Lakers' injured suit crew (Gasol, Steve Nash, Xavier Henry, and Nick Young), their returns can't come soon enough for this reeling franchise.
Kendall Marshall Continues to Impress
Kendall Marshall put on another scintillating display of bona fide court vision, dishing out 16 assists (and 20 points, no less) in the big home debacle.
He's been a bright spot since the moment he was signed by the team in December and has actually provided the Lakers with some much-needed stability at the point guard position.
Simply put, Marshall could spot a contact lens in a swimming pool right now. He's that attuned to his senses right now.
With a team option that is certain to be exercised for next season, it will be interesting to see how much the Lakers utilize Marshall, especially considering the imminent roster turnover set to take place this offseason.
With the right supporting cast, Marshall could flourish as a solid Andre Miller-type but with better shooting range.
Beverly and Lin Can Key the Wins
While we're on the topic of stellar point guard play, the Houston Rockets can consider themselves fortunate to have two solid players at that all-important position.
Patrick Beverly may be one of the more unlikely point guards to start for a top-tier NBA team, but he acquits himself well in the major minutes he gets on the court. His best asset is his ability to take care of the ball, and he didn't disappoint with a solid 10 points, five assists and zero turnovers against the Lakers Wednesday night.
His backup, Jeremy Lin, is one of the better bench players in the league, and his slashing play from the focal point is a welcome change of place to the more measured play of Beverly.
Lin was relatively quiet in this matchup, finishing with just nine points, but he kept the Lakers guards off balance and remains an important factor in the Rockets' winning equation.
Lakers Season Is in the Tank
It may not be the official company policy quite yet, but if the Lakers aren't actively tanking, they certainly don't have the ability to avoid a lottery pick at this point in time, even if they wanted to.
The eight or so available players still clearly put up a strong effort each night—as the majority of the players on the roster are essentially auditioning for jobs next season—but the talent and player deficit is just too much to overcome on a nightly basis.
Even the familiar confines of Staples Center are no respite from the Lakers' woes.
Lakers have lost 8 straight games at Staples Center. That's the longest home losing streak in FRANCHISE HISTORY.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 20, 2014
Every week it seems like the team has finally hit rock bottom, but this season is quicksand; they just keep sinking further into the muck.
The least we can do is end this article with a brief moment of grace for Lakers fans. Rockets fans had plenty to choose from Wednesday night.
Take it away, Mr. Meeks (h/t USA Today).