5 Things We Learned: Lakers vs. Rockets
1. The King is unstoppable
At 35 years old, Lebron James is averaging 26 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 8 assists so far in the 2020 NBA playoffs. James has looked as effective as ever.
James’ ability to drive past any defender and get to the basket was on display throughout these 5 games. Houston had no answer for James, who was seemingly always either taking a high percentage layup or making a pass for an even better look.
James’ aggressiveness freed up teammates like Markieff Morris, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma for open shots from all over the court. It seemed like James showed the perfect combination of self-aggression and unselfishness.
It was important for James and Anthony Davis to make sure their other options had chances to make plays early on in the playoffs. In the past, we have seen James’ teams be exposed by their lack of scoring options. When the competition heats up in both the Western Conference Finals and potentially the NBA Finals, it is important that the Lakers’ rotational players are ready to take and make shots.
James has shown confidence in all of his teammates, which will go a long way in helping him secure his fourth championship. The 17th-year NBA champion is still the most valuable player in basketball and has proved that in his 10 playoff games so far.
2. Harden and Westbrook’s playoff struggles are a detriment to their careers
James Harden and Russell Westbrook rank 3rd and 7th all time in points from NBA players without a championship. This may be an impressive mark in some eyes, but the bottom line is that these two former league MVPs do not seem like they are good enough to bring an NBA championship to Houston.
Harden is currently signed to a four-year, $171 million contract while Westbrook is not too far behind him, with a 5-year $206 million deal. This does not make for much room on the roster to add talent.
Even though Harden and Westbrook have shown that they can be some of the most dominant players in the league during the regular season, the fact is that the Rockets may not be able to sign or trade for an effective piece to help Houston get to the NBA Finals.
3. Anthony Davis is the best sidekick James has ever had
Davis has been the perfect match to join James in Los Angeles, even before James signed with the purple-and-gold two summers ago. Davis’ ability to shoot jump shots from all over the court has been on full display so far in these playoffs.
The former Pelican has even shown improvement handling the basketball. Davis was able to shoot over any Rockets defender that was brought at him. The chemistry between Davis and James seems to be unstoppable. When Davis is shooting well from behind the 3-point line with consistency, it allows the Lakers to have more space on the floor.
If James and Davis can be effective from all three levels of scoring, it is hard seeing any team being capable of stopping them for 4 games.
Some may say that Davis is James’ second best teammate of all time to Dwyane Wade. But, Davis is clearly making that statement come into question, and is showing that the Lakers should be in good hands once James hangs up his kicks.
4. The Lakers do not need a defined third option
After a disappointing Game 1 that left many thinking that James’ hopes of a fourth title may be in doubt, the Lakers' bench and supporting cast stepped up. The Lakers got unexpected contributions from Rajon Rondo, Morris, and Alex Caruso.
Caruso and Rondo were much-needed spark plugs for the Lakers after getting dominated in Game 1. Both guards were able to get James rest and play effective minutes, both distributing and handling the basketball.
Neither Caruso or Rondo are known for their 3-point shooting, but both were able to hit big shots from deep to seal games in this series. Morris, on the other hand, was asked to play a bigger role when head coach Frank Vogel decided to go small in Game 4.
Morris took Javale McGee’s starting spot and made the most out of his opportunity. Morris shot 6-7 from the field in Game 5, including 4-4 from 3-point range. The struggles that Green and Kuzma have recently had from 3-point range made Morris’ contributions even more important.
5. The Lakers’ chemistry outmatched the Rockets
Dwight Howard and McGee have been a huge part of the Lakers’ success during the regular season. This series, they sacrificed their minutes so the Lakers could match the speed of the Rockets.
During the Lakers’ blowout win in Game 5, Howard and McGee seemed to be having the time of their lives, caught waving to the camera and making funny faces. James has done an outstanding job of guiding this team and acknowledging the outstanding play of his teammates in the last 4 games of this series.
The Lakers seem to be all in and ready to do whatever it takes to get to the promise land. On the other hand, Harden and Westbrook seemed to do more complaining to the referees than communicating and leading their team as they faced adversity.
Maybe a part of the reason that Houston can’t get to that next level is a lack of leadership, especially now since D'Antoni has parted ways with the Rockets.
Sam Kirk is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.