Defensive breakdowns, Rajon Rondo doom Houston Rockets in Game 3

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

The trio of Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and Rajon Rondo were too much for the Houston Rockets to overcome in a high-scoring Game 3 battle.

After a promising first-half performance filled with offensive outbursts, the Houston Rockets went ice cold from the field and the defensive end in the second half resulting in a 112-102 loss in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Houston was torched by the superstar combo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who combined for 62 of the Lakers’ 112 points. Additionally, Rajon Rondo came off the bench and took advantage of the Rockets’ defensive plan to score 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the floor. Houston was outscored 42-16 by the Lakers’ bench, and the majority of those points came in the second half.

The Rockets’ improved and re-vitalized defense was non-existent for most of this game, but during the first half, it was hard to complain about their defense due to their heavy effectiveness on the offensive end.

Houston scored 64 points while shooting 25-for-44 from the field and 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the first half. Unfortunately, the Rockets’ offensive efficiency disappeared into the night, and their inconsistent defense was on full display for the world to see in the second half.

Houston shot 13-for-37 from the floor, 6-for-6 from the free throw line, and scored only 38 points in the second half. James Harden scored 33 points, dished out nine assists, and secured nine rebounds in 38 minutes of work.

Russell Westbrook returned to form and compiled 30 points on 13-for 24 shooting while recording eight rebounds and six assists. Despite the Rockets’ two stars putting up big numbers, both guys were virtually taken out of the game in the fourth quarter.

The Rockets could do no wrong from the offensive end in the first half, scoring at will from every angle on the court. The absence of Danuel House, Jr. disabled them from further spreading the floor and creating more space for them to move the ball around the perimeter. However, Harden and Westbrook had no trouble getting into their groove as they combined for 34 of the Rockets’ 64 first-half points.

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The offensive onslaught continued for both teams in the third quarter resulting in the game being tied at 82 after the quarter. In the fourth, the Rockets self-destructed on both sides of the ball.

Rondo scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter while James, Davis, and Kyle Kuzma proceeded to light it up also, with little to no answer from the Rockets.

Houston was held to 20 points in the fourth quarter, and Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker were taken out of the game, which put the Rockets at a considerable disadvantage.

Robert Covington exited the game with the Rockets trailing by 11 with 4:37 left in the game after taking an inadvertent elbow to the jaw from Davis, forcing the Rockets to play without another 3-and-D player.

Afterward, Houston attempted to make a final push, but they couldn’t get enough timely baskets, and on the off chance they did, they failed to make their presence known on the defensive end, ultimately leading them to their demise in Game 3. Houston will take a day to make final adjustments in preparation for a Game 4 showdown.

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Tip-off will be at 7 pm ET on Thursday, Sept. 10.