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5 Things the Lakers Need to Do to Beat the Houston Rockets

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The Los Angeles Lakers lost Game 1 of the Western Conference semis against the Houston Rockets last night with a final score of 112-97.
Give credit where credit is due as the Rockets came ready to play and executed their game plan to perfection to take the 1-0 series lead.

The number 1 seeded Lakers were already trailing the majority of the game heading into the 4th quarter, and the small ball Rockets blew the game wide open in the final frame with a 16-3 run, which ultimately shut down any hopes of a Laker come back.

Similar to the first-round matchup against the Portland Trailblazers, the Lakers started the series off slow and ended up losing the opening game. The first game in round one seemed to be a wake-up call to Lebron and the Southern California squad as they made effective adjustments and cruised in the next 4 games to advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs.

If the Purple and Gold are to claim a Western Conference Finals berth, it is a must for them to learn from their mistakes and shortcomings in Game 1.

What are some possible adjustments the Lakers can make after their Game 1 loss?

1) Take Care of the Ball

Photo: Mike Ehrmann/nba.com

The Lakers committed 15 turnovers in game 1, which isn’t the worst number. But if they want to beat the Rockets, they need to do a better job taking care of the ball. Houston took advantage of every turnover the Lakers had by scoring 27 points off turnovers compared to just 12 for the Lakers.

With the small ball style of play, the Rockets are outstanding in forcing turnovers with their active hands, ability to switch, and amazing defensive rotations. The Lakers should not let themselves be startled, and they need to be able to take better care of the ball if they expect to go deeper into the playoffs.

2) Be More Disciplined on Defense

The Houston Rockets, led by former MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook, are definitely a defensive nightmare for any team. With their height and unorthodox style of play, they are known for attacking the rim, excellent ball movement, and, of course, jacking up a ton of threes – all of which seem to give their opponents trouble.

Facing that type of offense, it is essential to be a lot more disciplined on defense. In Game 1, the Lakers showed some lack of disciple on the defensive end, which is a recipe for disaster. They committed some careless fouls, sending Houston to the line several times. They were biting on a lot of shot fakes, giving easy driving lanes and high percentage shots for Houston. They were also often late in their defensive rotations, resulting in points in the paint, wide-open threes, and even more trips to the line.

If Harden and the Rockets recognize any gaps in the defense, even just a sliver, they will definitely make you pay. If the Lakers are to improve in the following games, they need to keep their hands up straight, they need to rotate on time, and they need to lock in on the defensive end of the floor.

3) Attack the Paint

The Lakers have a height advantage, and it’s obvious. To counter the small ball play of Houston, they will need to utilize their height and attack the paint more than they did last Friday. Los Angeles ended up with 40 points in the paint, which is a respectable statistic. Though they’re against a team whose tallest player is 6”7′, and they’re a squad whose average height is a little over 6”6’, so they should be able to score a lot more around the basket.

Looking at the stats of the Purple and Gold, they are one of the best in terms of paint scoring. During the regular season, they ranked second in the league in this category with 52.8 points in the paint. This is even more noteworthy in their wins as they scored over 54 points in the paint when they won. In the playoffs, they are also second highest with 48.3, and they have scored around 50 points in the paint in their 4 wins against the Blazers. The Lakers need to use their strengths to their advantage, and that means owning the paint.

4) Dominate the Boards

Another way the Lakers can effectively use their height is by dominating the boards, which they failed to do last night. They ended the game in a deadlock in terms of rebounds with 41 apiece. This will just not do for the Purple and Gold, as they rely heavily on their rebounding game to translate into more scoring opportunities.

They are one of the top teams in the league in rebounds per game, so they cannot allow the Houston Rockets to come close to them in the rebounding battle.

They must dominate the boards by boxing out and crashing the glass on both ends of the floor, especially on offense which can turn into second-chance points.

It’s also important to note that the  Lakers are second in the playoffs in terms of second-chance points, while the Rockets are second to the last on at 15th.  A large reason for this is because of their ability to dominate the boards. The Lakers, led by their big men, must make an effort to grab those rebounds in order to control the game, and hopefully control the series.

5) Bring the Energy

Lastly, the Lakers just need to outplay the Rockets in terms of energy. It was clear as day in game 1 that the Rockets were showing so much more heart and hustle all throughout. They were very active on defense, trapping hard, tapping passes, forcing turnovers, attacking the rim, and overall being the more aggressive team on both ends of the floor.

Los Angeles cannot allow any momentum to go to the opposition solely because of energy plays. If the Purple and Gold do want to continue their quest towards the Larry O’Brien trophy, they are going to show how much they really want it, and they need to outplay the Rockets in terms of energy.

Game 2 and the rest of the series will be something every fan should look forward to.
Knowing Lebron and the Lakers, they will spend time watching film, and they will make the necessary adjustments to bounce back following a lackluster performance in Game 1.

Featured Image: Mike Ehrmann/nba.com
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