Three Takeaways From The Rockets’ Easy Game 1 Win Over The Lakers

It’s been less than 48 hours since the Houston Rockets survived their Game 7 slug-fest against the Oklahoma City Thunder, so there was no rest for James Harden and company before their second-round showdown with the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers tipped off on Friday night.

The Lakers, on the other hand, had six days to rest before Game 1, having completed the gentlemen’s sweep of the Blazers last weekend. As it turned out, rest would not factor into the final outcome of this one as the Rockets cruised to a relatively easy 112-97 win on Friday.

Here’s what we learned as the Rockets and Lakers kicked off their second-round series.

James Harden Has Rediscovered His Swagger

After struggling to make shots in Game 7 against Denver a couple of days ago, Harden was back in full effect on Friday night, leading all scorers with 36 points on 12-of-20 shooting for the game, including 3-of-6 from three-point range. Maybe it was the series-saving block on Luguentz Dort that reinvigorated him, but Harden was on fire from the opening tip, scoring 25 points in the first half to led the Rockets to a double-digit lead before halftime.

But it wasn’t just his shot that was on. Harden was getting into the paint at will and got to the free-throw line 11 times in the first half, as the Lakers bigs failed to cordon off his driving lanes. Game 1 found Harden at his best once again, which is bad news for the Lakers.

The Rockets’ Small-Ball Attack Is Working On Both Ends So Far

Aside from LeBron (20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) and Anthony Davis (24 points, 14 rebounds) getting their numbers, the Rockets’ defense was stifling at times during this contest, particularly in the fourth quarter when they held the Lakers’ scoreless for a four-minute stretch that resulted in a 14-0 run to push the lead to nearly 20. Neither Bron nor AD scored for the first seven minutes of the fourth, and by that point, the game was already out of reach.

The Lakers were ice-cold from downtown, going 11-of-38 from behind the arc, and they weren’t much better inside the arc, shooting just 42 percent overall amid the Rockets’ swarming defense. And it was individual efforts from across Houston’s roster, as their small-ball roster was able to limit the Lakers’ effectiveness despite their size advantage.

The Lakers will need to make some adjustment in Game 2 to better exploit their size and put more pressure on the Rockets’ smaller defenders.

LeBron Was Very Hostile Toward Russell Westbrook For Some Reason

Not that it was anything personal, but LeBron seemed to be really going after Westbrook Friday night, on both sides of the court. It started with this vicious jam on Russ in the first half.

And Bron wasn’t finished quite with Westbrook yet.

Not by a longshot.

Of course, Russ would get the last laugh in this one. He finished with 24 points, nine rebounds, and six assists, but had a tough shooting night, going just 10-of-24 from the field overall and 1-of-5 from downtown.

The Lakers will try to even the series when Game 2 tips off Sunday at 8:30 ET on ABC.