Game Notes: Rockets at Lakers
Kobe doesn’t like Boston or Miami.
Gasol steps up in the third quarter, as the Lakers start to chip into the lead. The big man gets aggressive after Jackson told him to stop passing the ball down low. Gasol took the advice to heart and added 9 points in the frame. Kobe starts to look for his shot more and gets results on his pretty, pretty, pretty fallaway. Doesn’t matter who he’s got on him, whether it’s Shane Battier, Luis Scola or Courtney Lee.
Perhaps you’re wondering about Yao Ming. With the objective of playing him 24 minutes a night and sitting him on the second of back-to-backs, Yao had played 17:51 and had 7 points to go with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Decent numbers for someone who has been out of action for a year and a half and who is limited so severely in his minutes.
Kobe continues to fill it up and he’s finding teammates as well. He hits Odom and Gasol with passes for easy buckets down low, but the Lakers are having trouble getting into striking distance. For the majority of the third, the lead stays around 9 points.
Steve Blake hits his first of many emotional shots late in the third quarter, slicing the Houston lead down to five at the end of the quarter. The Lakers close out the third with a 13-7 run.
The Lakers do a promotion at the end of the third quarter where they have a fan shoot from half for cash (I think it’s 50 grand) and if they miss, they can shoot a three for 12 grand or something. Underneath the basket stand Cheryl Miller and Phil Jackson and all I can think of is Jackson getting picked off from half court. It doesn’t happen this time.
FOURTH QUARTER, a.k.a. BOSS LEVEL
It’s a safe bet to say that the stage is set every night for Kobe Bryant to do his thing at Staples, or any other arena in the League, for that matter. But at home on banner and ring night, trailing a lesser opponent by 15 points, no one would call you a fool if you suggested this quarter would be where Kobe flexes lethal.
It seems everyone else in the building/watching on TV/online critiquing thought the same thing, except for Shannon Brown. After filling up so many highlight reels last year for the Lakers, Brown showed off his improved shooting touch in a comeback that took place with Kobe on the bench. Brown scored 14 of his 16 in the fourth, including four three-pointers. He used a stop and start move at the free-throw line to put the Lakers in front and had the team trading leads with the Rockets when Kobe subbed back in with 6:44 to play.
And Yao Ming? Just when things were getting interesting for the big man, he fouled out. His line: 9 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, 2 assists and 4 turnovers. In 23:01.
Just because Kobe was in, it didn’t mean Brown was slowing down. His fourth trey of the quarter had Kobe hugging him at center court and put L.A. up 8 — 99-91.
Luis Scola padded his stats in the fourth, going for 18 points and 16 boards and helping the Rockets inch back into the game. Scola’s drive on Gasol gave Houston a 1-point lead late, but Steve Blake’s third trey of the game (assist No. 7 for Kobe) proved to be the winner. After Brooks had his shot blocked on a drive, the horn sounded, the confetti fell and the Lakers moved into a three-way tie for the League’s best record.
Final Score: Lakers 112, Rockets 110
Kobe on what he said to Shannon Brown when he hugged him at center court:
“Hell of a shot. He’s playing well, he’s worked so hard at his game from being a slasher, a ball handler, to a catch and shoot player.”
Shannon Brown on what Kobe said to him at center court:
“[He said] way to shoot it. We said some other stuff, but I can’t really say that or tell everybody. But it was fun to see him embrace me like that.”
Brown on improving his outside shot:
“That’s what you’re supposed to do, is get better in the summer time and put it to good use when the season comes around.”
Ron Artest on if it was awkward having this night against a former team:
“I wasn’t really thinking about that. I had a great time in Houston. I was more focused on the win. I haven’t really had a chance to think about that and I was more focused on the ring itself.”
Rick Adelman on Yao:
“His timing’s got to get better as he goes along. You just have to keep judging as you go.”
Adelman on if he would have taken Yao out were he not in foul trouble:
“Twenty-four (minutes) is the limit. I have no choice. That’s what the decision was with the medical people and we’ll have to go with it.”
Phil Jackson on Shannon Brown and Steve Blake:
“We just didn’t seem to find traction until Shannon and Steve got in the ball game and changed the contexture of that ball game. It was a great effort by those two. They gave us a big rally.”