Lakers/Rockets Game 4 Recap
The Rockets are back up in that a** with the resurrection.
“During the regular season and the Playoffs, we understand that only the team can win the game, not one person. No one is above this team. Everyone on this team understands that.”
That was the quote Yao Ming gave before the game when asked how hard it would be for the team to play without him. He couldn’t have been any more correct. Don’t start digging Houston’s grave just yet. There’s still plenty of life in the team, even without Yao Ming, and now there is in the series as well.
It appears the rumors of the Houston Rockets’ death have been greatly exaggerated. Before the game, The Toyota Center felt like a funeral home. Only half of the seats were filled and there was relatively no energy in the building until Yao Ming came out with 3:30 before the starting lineup. The Rockets 19-4 start did a lot to fix that. Their discipline and energy was unlike any I’ve seen from the Rockets since Game 1 against Portland, and they shocked a lot of people by taking Game 4.
Shane Battier talked about the team’s effort.
“We’re a resilient group. We’ve talked about bouncing back through adversity, through lineup changes, through trades, through injuries. We’ve never quit. We’ve never stopped believing. It sounds corny but we have a group of guys that wants to do the right things, make the right plays and play together. When we do that, we’re not a bad team.”
Battier also talked about how the media has underrated the team’s bench, saying, “I don’t think many people have watched us play. If you listened to the national media when Yao went out, nobody really gave us a shot to win. But if you watched us, you know that we play with a lot of determination and we have a deep bench. When one guy goes down, plug another guy in and play well and at a high level. Obviously we can’t replace Yao Ming. He’s our best player, but we’re going to try to make up for that deficit.”
Houston’s role players have continued to ride a wave of momentum that they gained earlier in the series as Yao sat out with foul trouble. The team has chemistry like Beyonce and Jigga. Chuck Hayes continues to show how much heart he has. Kyle Lowry played with composure. Even Brian Cook dropped a three. By the way, it’s not too late to get your Brian Cook jerseys at NBA.com. (Crickets.)
Aaron Brooks rose to the occasion and lit up his defender like it was Christmas. His dribble penetration and composure in the face of adversity helped negate the absence of Yao. Brooks’ offense was phenomenal, and his 3 with 6:55 in the 3rd to give the Rockets a 27 point lead blew the roof off the Toyota Center.
Brooks said, “We controlled the ball and made smart plays. We made the extra pass. Last game, we got a little bit too much into the one on one game, and tried to force things too much. This game, we got into the middle, kicked it out and made the extra pass. We got the ball moving. That’s what you have to do against this team. They’re one of the best teams in one on one defense and post up defense, so we have to swing the ball and get points that way.”
Kobe’s said, “Brooks has played extremely well. He’s very quick. You almost have to treat him like a Tony Parker in that sense. He’s crafty and he can shoot the ball from distance. He cut us up.”
Brooks also did his best postgame Farnsworth Bentley impersonation, rocking the red bow tie with the matching jacket.
“I got kind of tricked a little bit. You see, we got these red jackets and we were told that it was mandatory for one of the players to wear them. I figured if I had to wear a jacket like this, I’d go all out and make it look real ridiculous. I don’t normally dress like this, but after a game like that I just might.”
Brooks kept the joke going after a reporter asked him if he would have dressed like that if he’d known it was going to be on national television.
“Well I didn’t know that the Playoffs were going to be on national television,” said Brooks. “I was surprised by all the cameras.”
How the Lakers got outrebounded with virtually no big man on the court for Houston is beyond me. It all came down to who wanted it more and was willing to put out the proper technique. Phil Jackson will make adjustments though, and the Lakers will be far more aggressive and ready to ball next game.
Shane Battier may not be a “Kobe stopper”, as many of the SLAM readers have stated he believes he is, but he is one of the smartest players in the league. Who saw him hitting 3 threes in the first 7 minutes of the 1st? Not even Shane’s mother saw that coming. Happy Mother’s Day, by the way, to all the moms out there.
“It all started with Shane,” said Aaron Brooks. “Shane played big today. He came out and gave us a spark, and defensively he did his thing. That’s the heart of the team right there.”
Battier joked about outscoring Kobe, saying, “It’s not going to happen too often, so this box score may be framed in my house. You know. I am already thinking about it. I got to get ready because it’s going to be a long Game 5.”
Oh, and for the readers who said that Battier thinks he is a Kobe stopper, check the quote.
Battier said, “The only way to guard Kobe is to do a job with him team defensive wise… I’m not saying that what we’re doing is working. We’re just trying to make him work.” Yeah, I don’t think Battier is too full of himself.
Aside from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers looked lost for nearly the entire game. The Black Mamba scored the first 7 Lakers points. Even Kobe looked a bit shaken, getting an early technical foul and hitting the side of the backboard on a baseline shot. You have to wonder if they got a little overconfident after hearing Yao was out.
After the game, Kobe said, “They shot the ball extremely well and put us in a hole. We couldn’t recover.” When asked why they came out flat, he replied, “I just don’t think we started the game with the right energy, the right focus or the sense of urgency.”
If there was one highlight for the Lakers, it was Pau Gasol’s performance. He hasn’t enough credit for his play. Even though 14 of his 30 points came in the 4th quarter when the game was in hand, Pau’s offensive arsenal is great to watch. It’s even better in person. I still have nightmares of him shredding up Houston when he was on the Memphis Grizzlies.
Ron Artest didn’t put up points tonight, but he kept the Rockets composed, and had 6 assists. He’s also officially the referees’ public enemy. He couldn’t get a call if he had a whistle attached to his neck. At Halftime, Artest was pleading his case for about a minute.
Do you think that maybe the Lakers are regretting giving Bynum that 58 million dollar contract?
I get that this has turned into a heated series, but there’s no reason for Houston to boo Lamar Odom when he fell on a drive in the 3rd. Odom didn’t help his case by getting T’ed up as he walked off the court. Talk about adding insult to injury.
The Lakers showed some fight at the end, which is going to give them some momentum for Game 5.
“We were just trying to keep it above twenty,” said Brooks. “I think we stalled a bit. We didn’t want to shoot early in the shot clock. They came out and hit some big shots like we knew they would, but luckily we had a big enough cushion to sustain.”
There are people who are already saying that this team is better without Yao. While the lane is open for the Rockets to attack more, I wouldn’t go agree with the initial statement and neither would Luis Scola.
“We’re different,” Scola said. “Sometimes you have better things. If you ask me, I’d choose to play with Yao one hundred percent of the time, but since that’s not possible we try to use them in our favor.”
The Lakers still have the advantage in the series after reclaiming home court advantage, but today they ran head first into a proud and focused team. Kobe knows the opportunity that was missed and the challenge the Lakers now face.
“We blew a great opportunity,” Bryant said. “I’ve been on teams that have made this same dumb mistake before, so it’s important for my guys to stay up, because Tuesday we’re going to face a very hungry Houston team that believes they can win the the Staples Center.”
Having said that, we all know that Kobe is going to have a great game in Game 5. The best always come back big after a loss.
“He’s going to come back with a vengeance,” Battier said.
All the pressure was on the Rockets’ shoulders before Game 4 to keep this series going. Now it lies squarely on the Lakers’ shoulders. The Rockets have nothing to lose. Everybody expects them to be knocked out anyway. They know this and that’s why they’re a very scary team going into the Staples Center.
Battier said, “We’re playing with house money. We’re huge underdogs. Can we put together another performance like today’s? I don’t know but we’re going to take our chances.”
The Rockets proved a lot about their team today. If they lose this series they can still walk away with their heads held high. But they aren’t going home yet. Even though they’re still a longshot to win 2 more times, they have a chance. Don’t be surprised if the team is rocking 2008 Kevin Garnett quotes on their Ipods. The Rockets could have hung their heads and taken a beating in Game 4, like we all expected them to. Instead, they broke off a Hoosiers-esque win, proving that the sum of the team is better than the individual parts. Now anything is possible.