Anthony Davis drives

Huge 2nd Quarter Run Fuels Lakers Win over Rockets

With 8:18 left in the 2nd quarter, the Rockets took a 36-29 lead over the Lakers after a Jabari Smith Jr. dunk. Just under six minutes later, with 2:29 left in the period, an Austin Reaves three-pointer completed a 25-2 run that pushed the Lakers lead to 54-38. The Lakers never looked back, beating the Rockets 107-97 to keep Houston winless on the road this season and lift their own home record to 8-2 and 12-9 overall.

In a game defined by its defense, the Lakers ratcheted up their ball pressure and aggressiveness in the passing lanes to tally 11 steals and force 16 Houston turnovers overall, turning those thefts and miscues into 21 points and a whole bunch of defensive momentum that the Rockets struggled to overcome. D'Angelo Russell (5) and Austin Reaves (3) were the Lakers main burglars, but every perimeter defender contributed to the team's ball pressure and general activity on and off the ball, keeping Houston off balance and unable to get into a rhythm.

Along with Anthony Davis' stellar rim protection (five of the team's seven blocked shots), this perimeter pressure directly led to the Rockets connecting on just 40.4% of their field goals on the evening, including 25 of their 58 attempts from two-point range (43.1%). Without Houston shooting a respectable 35.1% from behind the arc, their offense would not have found much success at all against the Lakers swarming defense.

With their defense leading the way, the Lakers were able to play faster and get more open court and early offense chances against a very good Rockets defense in their own right. The Lakers ran the floor more, not just to get layups and shots in the paint, but to get into their sets earlier and to get themselves cleaner looks before Houston could get set into their halfcourt defense.

When the game did slow down, though, it was the combination of LeBron, Anthony Davis, and Austin Reaves who made Houston's defense pay.

Davis led the way with 27 points and 14 rebounds (six offensive), battering his way through the Rockets interior to get good shots at the paint. Davis connected on just 10 of his 22 shots from the floor, but had several shots go in-and-out or unluckily roll off the rim on a shot quality he would happily take every game if he could.

And while Davis would tally just three assists, he flashed wonderful passing in this game, often times issuing the first pass in a string that would end up with a teammate getting a great shot. So, even if it wasn't always AD getting the assist, his passing reads were sharp and helped set the wheel in motion towards the Lakers getting the types of makable looks that can make their half court offense hum.

As for Reaves, he led the Lakers bench with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting while knocking down five of his six free throws. Reaves did well to make good and quick decisions with the ball, taking the open jumper when it was there, but also attacking off the dribble when the defense played him too tightly. The result was Austin keeping the defense off balance, which allowed him to get to his spots on the floor and knock down the shots that were available to him.

LeBron, meanwhile, offered another wonderful offensive game where he balanced seeking his own shot with making the right reads as a passer. LeBron dished out seven assists (tied with D'Angelo Russell for the team lead) while scoring 16 points on 7-17 shooting. LeBron did most of his work near the basket (0-4 from behind the arc), using a variety of post ups and bank shots to score over and around Rockets defenders.

Lebron also had the highlight of the game, making a spinning, 360 layup after pivoting into the teeth of the defense, losing his own defender only to avoid the help with the spectacular finish.

While the Lakers stars showed out and deserve the recognition for their play, this win really was a total team effort on both sides of the ball.

Both Max Christie (12 points, 4-7 shooting, 3-3 on threes) and Taurean Prince (11 points, 4-7 shooting, 3-5 on threes) were critical floor spacers and key contributors defensively. Add in a good floor game from Jarred Vanderbilt in his season debut, and the team looks like they have something to build on with their rangy wings setting the tone defensively in front of AD, LeBron and the other bigs.

The Lakers now get a couple of days off before hosting a quarterfinals game of the In-Season Tournament against the Suns on Tuesday.