After losing Game 1, the Los Angeles Lakers unlocked Rajon Rondo’s postseason mode known as “Playoff Rondo,” and the veteran excelled on both ends of the court in Games 2 and 3 to put the Lakers ahead 2-1 against the gassed Houston Rockets.
After catching the Lakers off guard in Game 1 with a 15-point victory, the Rockets struggled in the next two games. The long slog of the seven-game opening series against the Oklahoma City Thunder finally caught up to the Rockets.
The Lakers won the last two games by double digits against a Rockets team that looked gassed in the fourth quarter.
Heading into Game 4, the Rockets seek to even the series at 2-2, while the Lakers don’t want to squander an opportunity to pull away with a 3-1 lead.
|#1 Los Angeles Lakers (2-1) vs #4 Houston Rockets (1-2)
- Tip-Off: 4:00pm PT
- Point Spread: LAL -5
- Total: 219 o/u
- Money Line: HOU +185 / LA -205
According to Draft Kings, the Lakers are -910 odds to win the series and advance to the NBA Western Conference Finals. The Rockets are +580 odds to knock out the Lakers.
In the most recent futures update by the Westgate SuperBook, the Lakers are +225 odds to win the 2020 NBA Championship. The Rockets are 23/1 odds to win the title.
LeBron James loves playing with Rondo, especially in the postseason where the veteran point guard elevates his game a couple of extra levels.
“Being able to make adjustments on the fly and being able to see how defenses are playing, and being able to see how the flow of the game is being played, there’s not many guys that can do that in our league,” said LeBron. “And in the postseason, it’s gigantic. And having Rondo on your side definitely helps.”
Rondo missed the opening series against Portland. He looked rusty in the first game back against Houston in Game 1, but in the last two games, the Lakers witness Playoff Rondo in the flesh.
“It’s real,” said Anthony Davis. “Playoff Rondo is real.”
He dished out nine assists in Game 2 and Game 3. In Game 3’s victory, he scored 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting including 3-for-5 from 3-point range. Rondo also didn’t shy away from defending with James Harden or Russell Westbrook.
The Lakers scored 30 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Playoff Rondo assisted or scored on 23 of those points.
“These last two games is (sic) everything we’ve imagined him being in the postseason,” added LeBron.
Meanwhile, the Lakers’ big guys took a licking against the undersized Rockets. Anthony Davis got knocked around, but it’s nothing he can’t handle.
“It’s a physical game,” said Davis. “Especially in the playoffs, intensity goes up. With the Rockets being smaller than you, they try to use their physicality a lot more. But we be physical back.”
Frank Vogel opted to counter Houston’s small-ball with a smallish lineup of his own for the Lakers. As a result, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard saw their minutes diminish as the Lakers flourished.
Gassed Rockets Out of Jet Fuel?
Nonstop NBA playoff games have been great for fans. But it’s been a chore for the players, who must play every other day. Teams were rewarded with a few days of extra rest if they swept or finished their previous series early. Otherwise, it was every other day.
The Rockets didn’t have any days off after a full seven-game series against the OKC Thunder.
Playing every day kept them fresh against a rusty Lakers in Game 1, but since then, the Lakers overpowered the Rockets.
In Game 2, the sluggish and tired Rockets scored only 17 points in the fourth quarter after they exploded for 41 in the third period.
After scoring 64 points in the first half of Game 3, the gassed Rockets scored only 38 in the second half.
“Our legs got a little tired,” said head coach Mike D’Antoni. “They upped their stuff. Too many 50-50 balls we didn’t get, too many just weren’t sharp or quick to the ball and it got away from us.”
D’Antoni rides his starters hard and relied on a six-man rotation in Game 3. Six players posted at least 35 minutes, including Jeff Green who tallied 16 points in 35 minutes off the bench. Daniel House , Jr missed the game due to a personal matter (that we now know he tried to sneak a female COVID-19 tester back to his hotel room).
Harden just missed a triple-double in Game 3. He led the Rockets with 33 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists.
The Lakers’ defense held the Rockets to only 30 3-point attempts in Game 3. One of the reasons the Rockets came up short is that they only made 12 treys all night. In Game 2, the Rockets jacked up 53 treys while knocking down 22 of them.