Although James Harden was mostly neutralized (14 points on 3-10 shooting), Russell Westbrook dropped 41 points in the win against the much larger Lakers squad.
“Anytime you see a unique style of play, it takes a little while to figure it out,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters, via the Los Angeles Times. “But it’s really not that different than what we see with a lot of teams that have centers that shoot threes. The difference is they have two elite, elite superstar offensive players that you’re trying to figure out how to guard, with five three-point shooters out there. So it’s a challenge. We can be a lot better than we were tonight. We’ve just got to be better.”
The Lakers stood pat at the deadline, but Rockets made a big move, moving center Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks in a move that brought Robert Covington to Houston. Covington made his impact known in his first game, scoring 14 points on 4-7 shooting from 3-point land. He also recorded a key block down the stretch on Anthony Davis and collected eight rebounds.
“Every time you try something different, these guys have got to believe in it,” D’Antoni said of his team’s smaller lineup. “And this helps a lot, because if you come in here and get spanked and they’re all little, it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe we can’t do this.’ So they’re fired up to keep trying. It’s just one game, but the confidence is good.”
Lakers Favorites But Daryl Morey Bullish on Rockets Chances
Post trade deadline, the Lakers are still the Western Conference favorite (+130), but Rockets general manager Daryl Morey believes that his Houston squad has what it takes to beat LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Co.
Here’s what Morey had to say, via USA Today:
When it comes to predicting the next NBA champion, Morey argued that the Los Angeles Lakers “deserved to be called the favorites.” When it comes to sizing up teams that have a good shot at stopping that from happening? Morey contended, “we feel very comfortable we can beat the Lakers.”
Morey has to be confident in the team he’s built. But the Lakers will surely have some more material to throw up on the bulletin board when the playoffs roll around.
Rockets ‘Thrilled’ With Russell Westbrook, James Harden Pairing
The Rockets are currently fourth in the West at 33-18, and it took some time for Harden and Westbrook to adjust playing against each other.
Houston has won four in a row and will be able to play a new brand of basketball without a big in the lineup. Morey is bullish on how the team will perform with the new lineup.
“We’re thrilled. We wanted to get our pace up. Westbrook has single-handedly done that. If we want to play this small style, which we did, we knew we needed to have guards that could switch with Russ, Eric and James. We knew we needed to have guards who were also strong and could rebound,” Morey said in the USA Today Q&A session. “Obviously Russ is pretty famous for being the best rebounding guard ever probably. We have the roster to unlock how we’re playing. We have it even more now with Robert Covington. We really feel like this is the direction the NBA is going to be going. Just like everyone was scratching their heads wondering why we’re shooting 50 3s a couple of years ago and saying we can’t win anything, we almost knocked off the Warriors. Now they will wonder why they have a 5 who has no one they can guard on the floor.”
The Lakers and Rockets next face off on March 12.
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