Devastating. That’s probably the best word to describe the Los Angeles Lakers’ relentless offensive that gored the Houston Rockets, 118-78 to take the pivotal Game 5 and the 3-2 series lead in their own Western Conference semis at the Staples Center.
The only time the Rockets enjoyed some semblance of a fight was when they took a 13-6 lead. But after that, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and even Andrew Bynum took over from there.
Bynum only played 19 minutes, but his inside presence was surely felt as he finished with a playoff-high 14 points and six rebounds.
With a 3-2 series lead, the Lakers just can’t celebrate yet.
Sure, the Rockets are still licking their wounds borne out of that 40-point blowout loss, matching the most lopsided playoff defeat in franchise history.
But make no mistake about it. Houston will definitely try to bounce back and salvage a win that would send the series back to Los Angeles for the no-tomorrow Game 7.
While a lot of pre-playoff predictions showed the Lakers breezing past the Rockets, owing to their superb line up, Los Angeles showed some signs of lackadaisical plays in the series.
It was an attitude that gave the Rockets confidence to engage the Lakers neck and neck in the Western Conference semifinals.
However, with momentum on their side, the Lakers better finish off the walking-wounded Rockets squad in order to get the rest they need and prepare for the Western Conference Finals tussle with the Denver Nuggets. (The Nuggets booked the first Western Conference Finals seat with their 124-110 Game 5 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.)
Here are some key items that the Lakers have to bear in mind as they take the Rockets on Game 6 tomorrow.
48-minute defense. Los Angeles’ 40-point victory didn’t happen by chance. It was a product of the Lakers’ active defense. LA had a total of 12 steals, led by Trevor Ariza’s 3.
Fastbreak. A good transition game normally happens when team defense is good. The Lakers collected 21 fastbreak points, thanks to their defense that forced Houston to 18 tunovers.
Inside game. Without a skyscraper of a center in Yao Ming (foot injury), Lakers’ big men—Gasol, Bynum, Odom and Powell had a field day in the shaded lane. The four Lakers frontline men combined for 48 points, completely overpowering the Rockets’ undersized frontline.