Rockets 134, Lakers 95 - Rockets get swift revenge on the Lake Show

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Back on October 26th, the Houston Rockets opened the 2016-2017 season in Los Angeles with a surprising 120-114 loss to the Kobe-less Lakers. They got swift vengeance on Wednesday with a massive blowout, nearly winning by 40 points – by far the largest margin of victory for the Rockets this season.

The Rockets were quick to take advantage of a young Lakers team that was without its most promising player (D’Angelo Russell, who has now missed ten straight games with a knee injury), and took and double digit lead early. Without their best ball handler, the Lakers were sloppy and committed nine turnovers that led to 15 points for Houston. The Rockets also took advantage of one of the league’s worst defensive teams, hitting on 65% of their shot attempts and closing the first quarter with an 11-2 run.

Houston took a brief ride on the struggle bus in the second quarter, committing five turnovers and allowing the Lakers to cut an 18-point lead all the way down to seven. The Rockets only shot 34% for the quarter (only converting on one of eight attempts from beyond the arc) and only assisted on three made baskets.

Luckily, the Rockets have a superstar in James Harden and a sixth man who has been on fire as of late in Eric Gordon. Gordon’s hot streak continued on Wednesday, as he converted on his first four three-pointers and scored 17 in the first half. Harden very quietly put up 16 points, five rebounds, and five assists before half. After Lou Williams hit a buzzer beater from three-quarters court, the Rockets went into halftime up 67-55.

The third quarter got off to a slow start, but the Rockets shifted into a higher gear and put this game away in the third. Houston started raining threes (they hit seven in the quarter) and forced six more turnovers. Gordon hit a couple of threes in the last minute of the third to give him eight for the game (a new career high), and the rout was on as the Rockets finished the period up 106-77.

Taking care of business and putting teams away early is important for the Rockets because it allows for younger guys like Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell to get more game experience. It also allows the starters and veterans to get more rest. Given the injury histories of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, as well as the fact that James Harden averages the 5th most minutes per game in the NBA (36.7), it’s important to get these guys rest. A little bit of rest now can mean a whole lot of energy saved for the end of the season and a significant Playoff run.

The Rockets have now won four in a row (the longest winning streak of the season so far) and nine of their last eleven. They’ll have a tough test on Friday as they welcome Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder to Houston for a star-studded showdown.

Game Ball

This is a segment of the game recaps that will give the proverbial game ball to a player that proved to be most valuable to the Rockets on a given night. This award won’t necessarily go to the player that puts up the best numbers, but to the player that made the greatest impact on the team – tangible or intangible.

Sunday’s game ball goes to Eric Gordon.

It bodes well for the Rockets that James Harden posted 25 points, eight assists, and six rebounds, and won’t be getting the game ball.

Gordon’s hot streak is a major reason why the Rockets have been winning at such a high clip. He scored 26 points on 69.2% shooting from the field – including draining eight of his twelve three-point attempts.

In the last six games, he has averaged just shy of 23 points on an incredible 58% shooting from beyond the three-point arc. He is tailor-made for Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system and for being the offensive spark for the second unit, as well as another shot creator that alleviate some of the crunch time pressure off of Harden.

It’s time to start campaigning for Eric Gordon to win the 'Sixth Man of the Year' Award. He’s building quite a compelling case.

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