Lakers-Rockets: Yao Ming and Ron Artest Are Los Angeles' Worst Nightmare

Jonathan LowellContributor IMay 5, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 07:  Yao Ming #11 and Ron Artest #96 of the Houston Rockets sit on the bench during the game with the Los Angeles Clippers on November 7, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Rockets won 92-83.  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.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Lakers had the lead Monday night for less than a minute total. 

The series started off very different from the first round with Utah, for two reasons:

The first round involved the Lakers actually getting leads, and coasting to the finish line. 

And Utah does not have two superstars named Yao Ming and Ron Artest. 

Yao, despite having knee trouble in the fourth quarter, shot better than fifty percent from the field, and was perfect from the free-throw line.  Artest provided not only offense for the Rockets, but a physical brand of basketball for which he is well known.

Physicality was the theme in Game One, and the Lakers just couldn't match the Rockets.

The Lakers had a week off, and it showed.  They shot only 39 percent from the floor in the first half and couldn't play defense to boot.  Pau Gasol was only one for five, and Bryant had only eight points at the half.

The Lakers didn't seem to warm up until the third quarter when they whittled the lead to 70-67 going into the fourth quarter.  Kobe also stepped up his offensive game, despite missing practice with a sore throat.

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The Rockets know how to win in a long, tough series, proving that in the first round against Portland.  For the Lakers, Wednesday will be a chance to prove they can win a series in which they have lost home-court advantage.