LeBron James Scores 26, Lakers Crush James Harden, Rockets 117-100

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IJanuary 13, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) drives with the ball against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Houston. (Troy Taormina/Pool Photo via AP)
Troy Taormina/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers finished off a two-game sweep of the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center with a convincing 117-100 victory only two days after L.A. defeated Houston by 18 on the same court.

Anthony Davis led the way for the Lakers with 27 points Sunday. Tuesday, it was LeBron James' turn to catch fire as the small forward scored 22 points in the first half alone on his way to finishing with 26. Houston simply couldn't match the scoring prowess of the defending champs off the opening tip and spent the rest of the game trying to make up for it.

After winning the first quarter 35-14, L.A. finished the half shooting 57.1 percent from the field and took a 71-48 lead into halftime. The Rockets were never in control.

James Harden struggled from the field with 16 points on 5-of-16 shooting as Houston (3-6) drops to three games under .500 and the Lakers (9-3) remain undefeated in six road games.

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Notable Performers

LeBron James, SF, Los Angeles Lakers: 26 points, 10-20 FG, 8 rebounds, 5 assists

Anthony Davis, PF, Los Angeles Lakers: 19 points, 7-8 FG, 10 bounds, 2 assists, 5 blocks

James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets: 16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists

John Wall, PG, Houston Rockets: 10 points, 5 assists, 2 steals

     

LeBron Leads Lakers Charge

There are some nights when even the best teams aren't going to be able to stop James and some nights where good teams can hardly match up with him.

Tuesday was an example of the latter.

After the Rockets held him to 18 points Sunday night, the forward took his revenge by leading both teams in scoring Tuesday despite hitting just one field goal in the second half. With 22 points over the first two quarters, James was subbed out with just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation and finished his night with 29 minutes on the court total—only the third time all season he's played fewer than 30 minutes and the first time since December 27.

Even James knew he couldn't be stopped by Houston's defense.

How else to explain his confidence in taking a second-quarter three-pointer in front of the Lakers bench and turning around to celebrate the bucket before it even dropped?

It might've been disappointing to see a 30-point lead cut in half by the end of the fourth quarter, but that's easily dulled by the Lakers shooting 50 percent from the field for the game, giving up just 39.2 percent from the field to Houston, and the ability of head coach Frank Vogel to rest James and Davis for most of the fourth quarter with another game Wednesday.

Tuesday proved the best-case scenario for Los Angeles. Now it just has to sustain that momentum for a quick turnaround in Oklahoma City.

     

Houston Offense Falls Flat

First-year head coach Stephen Silas is going to have to figure out a way to get his team some easy buckets when Harden can't get it done.

Unfortunately, Harden is arguably the best scorer in the NBA. If he can't get going, what chance do his teammates have? Tuesday provided the answer.

The Rockets began settling for shots early after falling into a 19-point deficit in the first half and they were never going to claw their way back like that. Not with the Lakers swarming to the ball and Houston's top two guards—Harden and Wall—barely getting to the line.

It wasn't just that the Rockets struggled from the field, it was that they took 40 attempts from behind the arc while struggling from the field. Only 12 of those 40 shots dropped while two of the Rockets starters, P.J. Tucker and David Nwaba, didn't score any points despite playing a combined 33 minutes.

Sterling Brown had the most audacious attempt at getting to the rim as he tried to sky over Davis late in the game only for the forward to easily swat the dunk attempt away. It was a microcosm of the night.

Without any reliable offense, the Rockets' plan of attack only got worse throughout the night.

Silas now has to figure out where it all went wrong and how to stop it from happening again.

     

What's Next?

The Lakers road trip wraps up with a stop in Oklahoma City to face a rebuilding Thunder team Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. Los Angeles will get to return home for two games against the New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors before embarking on a seven-game East Coast trip.

Houston, meanwhile, will play another two-game set, this time against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. That series opens at San Antonio on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET and wraps Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.