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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Rockets cruise past Lakers in Game 1, 112-97
Posted: September 5, 2020 -- 5:45 a.m. CT
ORLANDO, FL (ESPN Disney World of Sports Complex) -- The Houston Rockets used a 12-0 run early in the fourth quarter to lead by 17 points (99-82) with 7:54 remaining in the game. Houston cruised to a 112-97 win over the Lakers in Game 1 of their Second Round NBA Playoff matchup.
With James Harden on the bench to start the fourth quarter, Eric Gordon scored 9 straight points for Houston. Then, Russell Westbrook drained a three-point shot -- in front of Anthony Davis -- for a 97-82 Houston lead.
Harden checked into the game at the 8:28 mark of the fourth with the Rockets enjoying a 97-82 lead. Gordon continued his torrid fourth quarter with a layup for 11 of the Rockets' first 14 points in the quarter. Harden followed Gordon's layup with a 5-foot floater in the paint. Houston led LA 101-82 with 7:15 remaining in the game.
The Lakers made 1 of 7 field goal attempts during the Rockets' 16-3 run. LA made only 6 of 21 (28.6%) field goal attempts in the final 12 minutes.
"We got stops," Harden said of the decisive Rockets' run. "We got stops; and, I think Eric got it going which helped us a lot. Our defense. We held the number 1 team in the West under 100 points. That's good defense."
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Harden scored 12 of his game-high 36 points in the first quarter. Houston led 29-28 at the end of the first period. The first period featured 3 lead changes and two ties.
Harden poured in 13 points in the second quarter to help the Rockets outscored the Lakers 34-27 in the quarter and lead 63-55 at halftime.
Houston shot 51.2% (21 for 41) in the opening half compared to 48.8% (20 for 41) for the Lakers. The Rockets took advantage of Lakers' mistakes as the Rockets scored 14 points off 9 LA turnovers. Conversely, LA scored only 4 points off Houston's 7 miscues.
Houston did not shoot the ball well from three-point range in the third quarter. The Rockets made just 1 of 9 shots from long range. However' the Rockets made 9 of 12 two-point shot attempts. The Rockets outscored the Lakers 14-10 in the paint in the third quarter.
Anthony Davis scored 9 points in the third quarter to help the Lakers outscore the Rockets 24-22 in the quarter.
The shorter Rockets were the aggressors in the ball game. Houston's aggressiveness helped even the battle of the boards at 41. In fact, the shorter Rockets outscored the Lakers 42-40 in the paint.
The taller Lakers had a small 12-8 edge in 2nd chance points.
"I don't know why people keep saying we're small," Harden said after the game. "If you don't have heart, it doesn't matter. If you don't have dawg in you, it doesn't matter."
Rockets Head Coach Mike D'Antoni said, "If we can control everything below the rim, I'll take that."
After the game, Westbrook summarized Houston's mindset on defense, "Every time they shoot the ball, we're going to be right there."
Harden led Houston with 36 points. Westbrook scored 24 points in the game. Eric Gordon pumped in 23.
Anthony Davis scored 25 to lead the Lakers. LeBron James scored 20 -- zero in the fourth quarter. James missed all 3 of his field goal tries in the fourth.
Game 2 versus the LA Lakers will be Sunday, September 6. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m. on ABC.
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