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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Rockets' season ends with 119-96 loss to Lakers in Game 5 of Western Conference Semifinals series
Updated: September 13, 2020 -- 12:40 a.m. CT
Posted: September 12, 2020 -- 11:55 p.m. CT
ORLANDO, FL (ESPN Disney World of Sports Complex) -- The Houston Rockets began their Western Conference Semifinals matchup against the Lakers with a bang. September 4, the Rockets thumper the Lakers 112-97 in Game 1 of the series.
The Rockets ended the semifinals matchup with a whimper. The Rockets lost 4 consecutive games in the series, including a 119-96 shellacking in Game 5, to send the Rockets fishing.
Defense was a key to the Rockets' win in Game 1. The Lakers shot 42.2% from the floor in Game 1. The Lakers carved up Houston's defense in games 2 through 5.
LA jumped on the Rockets early. In the first 3:51 of the ball game, the Lakers made 6 of 7 field goals, including 3 three-point baskets, to jump to a 15-4 lead. LA led 33-11 before Houston scored 9 of the final 11 points to trail 35-20 after 12 minutes.
Houston scored the first 8 points of the second quarter to extend its run to 17-2. After a Lakers' timeout, the lead fluctuated between and 14 the rest of the quarter before Ben McLemore swished his third 3-point shot of the half to end the half.
The Rockets trailed LA 62-51 at halftime. The Lakers shot 61.8% (21 for 34 from the floor, including 9 for 18 from long range).
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P.J. Tucker sank two 3-point shots early in the third quarter to get Houston's offense rolling. James Harden scored a driving layup to pull Houston within six points (65-59) with 10:29 on the clock.
LA forward Markieff Morris swished a three-pointer to boost the lead to 9. Russell Westbrook answered with a driving layup. Houston was within 7 points (68-61) with plenty of time remaining in the third quarter.
The Lakers blew the game wide open with a 15-0 run for an 83-61 lead with just over 5 minutes left in the third quarter. LeBron James scored 7 during the run.
LA led 95-69 at the end of the third quarter. Houston trailed by as much as 30 points (101-71) in the fourth period. The Rockets did not get closer than 22 points in the final 12 minutes.
For the second straight game, the Rockets never led in Game 5. Houston's last lead in the series was 85-84 with 10:11 remaining in Game 3. GAME THREE!
Harden scored 30 points (12/20 fgs, 4/4 fts) to lead the Rockets. Jeff Green scored 13; and, Russell Westbrook added 10 points on 4 for 13 fgs.
LeBron led the Lakers in scoring with 29 points; Kyle Kuzma scored 17; Markieff Morris scored 16; Danny Green scored 14; Anthony Davis scored 13; and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 10 points.
Ironically, the Lakers shot 19 for 37 from three-point range while the Rockets made 13 of 49 three-point attempts. And, Houston outscored the Lakers 36-34 in the paint.
After the game, Harden was asked what the Rockets need to do to improve.
"Take an overall look at our team," Harden remarked. "Assess our team and see what holes we need to fill."
Russell Westbrook was asked if the Rockets' small ball was sustainable.
"When you have the right group of guys," Russ said. "It's definitely sustainable."
Houston Head Coach Mike D'Antoni was asked to assess his contract situation with the organization. "I had 4 years," D'Antoni commented. "Hopefully, it keeps going. But you just never know."
D'Antoni's four-year contract with the Rockets ends with the Rockets' season-ending loss Saturday night.
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