Rockets Offer Little Resistance In L.A.
LOS ANGELES, CA - After almost a week’s worth of buildup and anticipation, Mike D’Antoni didn’t make his Lakers head coaching debut Sunday night after all. Turns out that’s likely to take place Tuesday night instead. In the interim, however, his new team is starting to show the noted offensive mastermind – and the rest of the basketball world, for that matter – just how explosive they already are.
The Lakers put on a show Sunday night, an offensive exhibition so thorough, complete and seemingly simple as to be downright terrifying, and the Rockets stood as the unwitting accomplices left in their wake, ultimately succumbing by a final score of 119-108.
The gory details: Kobe Bryant (22 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) collected his 18th career triple-double, Dwight Howard racked up 28 points and 13 rebounds, and all five Los Angeles starters scored in double figures. L.A.’s star-studded squad – still minus All-Star point guard Steve Nash, by the way – simply put forth a virtuoso performance and the Rockets seemed powerless to stop them right from the opening tip as the Lakers connected on an astounding 74 percent of their shots while racing out to a 40-29 first quarter lead.
“The game was essentially lost in the first quarter,” lamented Houston’s acting head coach Kelvin Sampson. “I just didn’t like our resistance tonight. You’ve got to come with an edge – it’s a mindset – and I thought we were performing tonight rather than competing.
“I didn’t like the physicalness of our post defense, I didn’t like the ohysicalness of our impact on the ball. Everything was just too easy for them tonight. We didn’t make it hard enough.”
For all of Los Angeles’ offensive fireworks, however, the Rockets did manage to hang around for the game’s first three quarters thanks in large part to their own ability to put points on the board. Houston moved the ball extremely well while racking up a season-high 30 assists, pushed the pace effectively on the way to piling up 21 fast break points and took good care of the ball – until the early stages of the third quarter, that is. It was then that, having trimmed their deficit to a mere four points, the Rockets ruined their chance to pull even closer due to a rash of turnovers that ignited L.A.’s transition game and prompted a 12-0 Lakers’ run.
From that point forward, Houston never really threatened Los Angeles, even as Chandler Parsons caught fire while hitting eight of his 10 shots from the field and four of his five three-point attempts on the way to recording a team-high 24 points. The Rockets simply never found any answers to the riddle posed by the Lakers’ All-Star laden roster; an ominous sign given the fact L.A. only figures to get better once D’Antoni takes the helm and Nash gets healthy.
“There’s so much space and so much freedom,” remarked Jeremy Lin when asked about what makes the Lakers’ offense so formidable. “Someone’s going to get a good shot almost every time; you saw how well the ball got distributed. But to be honest we’re a lot better than that defensively. They made their system look good and we also made it look good today by not defending the way we’re capable of.”
The game was essentially lost in the first quarter. It was 40-29 after the first quarter and the game was even after that. I just didn’t like our resistance tonight. You’ve got to come with an edge – it’s a mindset – and I thought we were performing tonight rather than competing. Coming here in this environment with a team with that many weapons – and you know as the year goes on they’re only going to get better and better; they’re not going to take many steps backward, they’re just too talented to do that.
This was uncharacteristic of us. We’ve been in every game we’ve played. Whether it was Miami, Portland on the road or wherever, we’ve competed all year, but I did not like the way we competed tonight.
(on the defensive breakdowns)
I didn’t like the physicalness of our post defense, I didn’t like the ohysicalness of our impact on the ball. Everything was just too easy for them tonight. We didn’t make it hard enough.
We had the old turnover bugaboo snap up and get us again tonight, too. The score was 73-69, we had the ball. We’re sitting over there thinking we can win this game. But then we had a turnover and the next thing you know the floodgates go. We battled back, but here you just can’t turn the ball over and get the crowd going and give those guys some confidence. But we have a lot of high character guys, we’ll learn from this and we’ll move on.
Our mindset coming out, we didn’t have enough of that desperation and hunger, offensively and defensively energy-wise altogether. Definitely disappointing in terms of our effort and mindset.
(on the Lakers’ offense)
There’s so much space and so much freedom. Someone’s going to get a good shot almost every time; you saw how well the ball got distributed. But to be honest we’re a lot better than that defensively. They made their system look good and we also made it look good today by not defending the way we’re capable of.
Obviously they’re very talented. It’s almost like Kobe draws so much attention that everybody else has to help, which allows Pau to get open shots, which allows (Metta World Peace) and those guys to get open threes, Dwight sealing on the weak side. They’re a tough team and they hit some big shots, but I felt like right from the tip tonight we didn’t have energy and we didn’t have that same passion that we did in the Portland game and we could never get over the hump.
(a different Kobe tonight than the one you faced last year?)
It’s different because this year he’s in so much pick-and-roll. Last year he wasn’t; it was like he was on pin-downs and they used him differently. I think in that first quarter when he was just creating and coming off pick-and-roll and operating as a distributor. He’s a great player and it’s definitely a different Kobe this year with the ball in his hands rather than playing without it.
“It was us. We didn’t start off hitting them and being physical for the game. That allowed them to get easy baskets and they got comfortable. Everybody got comfortable. When that happens everyone makes shots. I think we played pretty well especially in the first half. We were shooting over 50%. Defensively we didn’t lock in and they got to many easy buckets.
on if it’s special to come to LA and play the Lakers:
“Yeah, I mean just being back home and playing in front of family and friends. It’s always good to play in front of them and they get to see you. They don’t get that opportunity often so it’s good to be home. We didn’t come away with a win but it’s still good to be home.”
on if he feels extra minutes:
“A little bit. Just doing the small things to prepare myself and get ready for more game.”
LAKERS INTERIM COACH BERNIE BICKERSTAFF
on the offense:
“54% [from the field], and 45% [from the 3-point line]. We’re getting good shots and we’re knocking them down. I thought we still had a little problem early with our defense, our down defense. That stretch where we took off a little bit, our defense got a little better, we got more aggressive. That team, the way they get that ball out, when that ball goes in the basket, it’s out, first pass they’re down the court taking shots. Eventually, that’s where we want to be. It’s not a break-neck speed, it’s the pass, the long pass, and it’s hard to outrun the ball. That’s basically where we’re trying to get to; get the ball out of bounds and let’s get it down, if there’s something good, fine. It also gives you a chance to have more time in your offense, in terms of the 24 second shot-clock.”
on how much of Mike D’Antoni’s system has been implemented:
“Every day there’s a little more. What’s important, it’s best to do a few things well and get it down because all of those things, they have options off of it. We put a few things in, they’re in, let’s work on the repetition, get it down, and then expand.”
on giving up 100+ points in two straight games:
“The two teams we’ve played will have a lot of shot attempts because that’s the way they play. Phoenix plays that way, and Houston plays that way, so there are a lot of attempts, and that’s the way they play. Sometimes they’ll give up a basket just to try to go back down and get one, so that explains that. At least that’s how a basketball coach would explain that.”
on how this experience will help Darius Morris:
“That was one thing that we just talked about. The fact that Nash has been out, the kid has had an opportunity to play. You don’t get experience through osmosis. He’s had an opportunity to play and I think it’s terrific for him, and his confidence.”
on how quickly the team has turned around:
“They were in the process. If you go back to the day before we played, we talked about how we were prepared to play that game. We had one of the best practices that we had had. The progress from that point, I think the guys have been playing, and when you have some success your confidence goes up and you believe in certain things. That’s what has happened, and we’re still missing a big item when you talk about Steve Nash. The positive is the young kids getting a chance to play; Duhon’s getting a chance to play. He is someone who is familiar with this particular offense because he was there in New York.”
“We just spaced the floor well. We shot the ball pretty well and seemed to make the right decisions.”
on Pau Gasol’s reaching 15,000 points:
“That’s a huge accomplishment. He is one of the greatest international players to ever come to our game and it’s extremely well deserved.”
on Dwight Howard:
“He opens up the floor for us and gets shooters a lot of their looks. Defensively, he’s our anchor. He’s really changed a great deal of shots.”
on Darius Morris:
“He is playing extremely well. He is playing with a great deal of maturity on both ends of the floor. I feel like he’s really doing a fantastic job defensively for us.”
on keeping momentum:
“Come out and play well. Play with a lot of energy. Execute well. Read the defense well.”
“It feels good. I think it’s something to be proud of and I’m happy to be able to have reached this milestone but I want to continue. I want to continue to be as productive as I’ve been throughout my career, and it feels good. It’s a big milestone to reach.”
on playing within the middle of the coaching change:
“I’d say both had something to do with it because Mike (D’Antoni) hasn’t been able to coach all of us on the floor but we’re running some of the actions that he wants us to run and one or two actions that we’ve been running with Bernie before Mike (D’Antoni) got here. So where just playing free Sunday basketball right now and making good decisions with the ball. Kobe is playing excellent off the pick and roll and Darius also played really well. We’re just playing off that for the most part.”
on his expectations in the NBA:
“I just wanted to be successful. I just wanted to make it and earn respect and succeed, and hopefully make people proud of what I was doing and make myself proud of myself. So that’s what I always try to do on a daily basis and so far I’ve gotten to this point and it’s been I think pretty good.”
“I’m just thanking my teammates in giving me that confidence and thank god most importantly, but also my coaching staff as well just telling me to go out there and play. They’re just trying to simplify it for me. Steve Nash has been giving me some great advice as well, so people around me are really helping me.”
“[The key was] just being aggressive and taking my time. You know last game I kind of rushed and got into it with one of their players. I just wanted to make sure I stayed focused and stayed composed out there.”
on the running pace of the new offense:
“We get tired faster, but you know we’ll get better. It takes time. Once we all get in great shape, it’s going to be tough for teams to play us, especially when we run that offense.”
on playing together as a team, and as a duo with Kobe Bryant:
“We all got to get better at it. You know me and Kobe really got to get better at playing together, but it takes time. We’re trying to read each other, and at the same time we both want to be aggressive, so we just got to learn how to play and mix our talents together and win games.”