2. The Houston Rockets’ defensive pressure
The Rockets had the Lakers on lock for most of the game until the Lakers made their final push at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Despite the Lakers shooting 45 percent from the field for the game, they didn’t get the shots when they needed to have them, and that was due mostly in part to the Rockets’ defense.
Fifty-eight of the Lakers’ 97 points came in the paint due to the aggressiveness and tenacity the Rockets played with on the defensive end from tip-off. The Rockets were visibly outmatched down low with Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, and a few others towering over the Rockets’ post players. Still, what the Rockets don’t have in height, they make up for with heart and understanding of the different situations.
For example, P.J. Tucker was tasked to guard Davis in the post. When Davis got deep position, there was nothing Tucker could do to stop him because of his length. However, when Tucker could get Davis out in space or on the perimeter, he used his toughness, strength, and mental attitude to draw Davis away from the basket and force him into tough shots. Harden also did that with Kyle Kuzma and whoever else he was guarding.
The Rockets let the Lakers have their points in the paint, the Lakers had to work extremely hard to get anything else going because they could never get any easy shot attempts. The Lakers shot a season-low 2-of-19 from the 3-point line and were held under 100 points yet again. They forced 25 turnovers, including 11 steals, and they compiled six blocks against the Lakers.
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