It’s mid-May and the L.A. Lakers are forty eight minutes from summer holidays. After a conference leading sixty five wins, the L.A. Lakers might not play for the Western Conference Championship. Instead, there is the possibility that while the Denver Nuggets and the Houston Rockets continue with post season play, the Lakers might be conducting their exit interviews and contacting their travel agents to book an early vacation.
The Houston Rockets have pushed the L.A. Lakers to a seventh game to decide their series. The Lakers have the advantage of playing this deciding game on their home court. That may be one of the few bright spots for the Lakers. Their previous at-home game against the Houston Rockets was a forceful display of dominance. That was Game Five. In Game Six, it went from dominating the Houston Rockets to being embarrassed by them.
The debacle for the Lakers began from the very start of the game. The Lakers offense is reputed to have an abundance of scoring threats. It took the Lakers five minutes and thirty nine seconds (5:39) to score their first field goal. That may be some sort of playoff record. At that point, the Lakers were looking at a 17 – 1 deficit. With their first field goal, the Lakers were trailing the Rockets 21 – 3; and it was a dream-like start for the Houston fans. They rejoiced. The Lakers never recovered from that deficit.
How bad was it? It seems incredible that a powerful offence like the Lakers could shoot one for twelve to start an elimination game. To save the trouble of finding a calculator, one for twelve from the field translated into an eight point three per cent (8.3%) shooting efficiency.
Why this is difficult to fathom is that the Lakers have a distinct size advantage. The Houston Rockets are without Yao Ming, without Dikembe Mutombo and without Tracy McGrady. At center, the Houston Rockets are starting Chuck Hayes, who is listed as a power forward. Chuck Hayes is listed as six foot six inches tall. That is comparable to playing Kobe Bryant or Sasha Vujacic or Luke Walton at the center position. Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic would be taller than Chuck Hayes.
The box score is indicative of how bad it was for the Lakers:
- Pau Gasol played forty three minutes and scored fourteen points. He did not attempt a free throw. None. This is reflective of Pau Gasol becoming a jump shooter instead of taking the ball to the basket. The Houston Rockets would be delighted if Pau Gasol continued to take jump shots.
- Derek Fisher’s shooting woes continue. In twenty one minutes of playing time, Derek Fisher scored two points, making one shot in seven attempts.
- Andrew Bynum did not contribute to the scoring. There were no points in nineteen minutes.
- Sasha Vujacic matched Derek Fisher’s point production. He scored one basket in three attempts. Sasha Vujacic and Derek Fisher combined for a two-for-ten night.
- And for the Lakers, there were eleven assists for the whole game. The ball movement was lacking and the shots were not falling.
Now it is the Lakers who must play with desperation. The Houston Rockets have exceeded all expectations. And, if the Houston Rockets catch the Lakers during another unfocused quarter where fifteen points are scored, then there is a distinct possibility that they could upset the team from Los Angeles. Regardless of the Game Seven outcome, the Houston Rockets have won over basketball fans with their style of play. In two emphatic home games, the Rockets have demonstrated that ‘heart’ and hard work can trump height and potential. On Sunday, Game Seven will be as much a test of character as a match of basketball skills.