LeBron James, Lakers Avoid Late Collapse vs. Rockets to Take 3-1 Series Lead

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis (3) goes up for a shot as Houston Rockets' P.J. Tucker defends during the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Anthony Davis helped the Los Angeles Lakers grab a 3-1 lead in their second-round series against the Houston Rockets with a 110-100 Game 4 victory Thursday.

Davis scored a game-high 29 points while LeBron James finished one assist shy of a triple-double, leading the Lakers to their third straight win in the series.

Los Angeles led by as many as 23 points before the Rockets cut the margin to single digits, but Alex Caruso stepped up with the dagger in the final minute:

It was too close for comfort for the Lakers, but they never trailed from the opening tip.

Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel went with a smaller lineup in this game, resulting in quicker movement that finished with a 19-2 advantage in fast-break points. It was enough for the team to move one game away from the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2010.

James Harden got his points but was just 2-of-11 from the field, providing limited opportunities to help his team keep up with the No. 1 seed in the West. 


Notable Performances

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Anthony Davis, PF, LAL: 29 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks 

LeBron James, SF, LAL: 16 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals

Rajon Rondo, PG, LAL: 11 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals

James Harden, SG, HOU: 21 points, 10 assists, 2 blocks

Russell Westbrook, PG, HOU: 25 points, 3 assists, 3 steals

Eric Gordon, SG, HOU: 19 points, 3 assists


Harden, Rockets Find Little Room Against Lakers Swarming Defense

The Lakers went small with their lineup and focused on cutting off what the Rockets do best. They trapped Harden and kept the Rockets from getting anything easy on the perimeter:

It led to a miserable first half for Houston as the Lakers built a 16-point lead:

The Rockets were just 3-of-13 from three-point range in the first half. Harden was limited to 1-of-7 from the field early and didn't find much more room in the second, finishing 2-of-11.

Though he got to the line and finished with 21 points, his poor shooting and five turnovers made for a rough game from the 2017-18 MVP.

The Rockets looked much better in the fourth quarter:

However, it was not enough after the offense was effectively shut down early by Los Angeles.

After ranking second in the NBA in points per game during the regular season, the Rockets will have to figure out how to get back on track before this series comes to an end.


Lakers Stars Efficient in Dominant Win

Though the defense was the key to the win, the Lakers excelled offensively with their ability to run the floor:

They got easy baskets by turning defense into offense and simply out-hustling the Rockets for much of the game.

It was another benefit of a smaller rotation in which JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard were not used. The size wasn't missed in the post either as the Lakers won the rebounding battle 52-26.

Davis thrived as a true center, while James was nearly unstoppable when he attacked the basket:

LeBron only had 16 points but finished plus-15 and was a key part of the win with 15 rebounds and nine assists.

The Lakers also got useful production from bench players Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker:

Six players finished in double figures to eventually grab an easy win that put the team one step closer to the next round. 


What's Next?

The Lakers will try to close the series in Game 5, scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.