Lakers vs. Rockets score: Los Angeles takes down Houston with Anthony Davis out of the lineup

The Lakers and Rockets battled it out in what could be a playoff preview

If Saturday night's titanic showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets really was a postseason preview, then one team should feel much better about their championship hopes than the other. With Anthony Davis sidelined, the Lakers produced arguably their most impressive win of the season by stomping the Rockets, 124-115, behind an absolutely dominant second half performance. 

The Lakers held the Rockets to only 17 points in the third quarter and managed to push their lead as high as 16 in the fourth before the Rockets closed the gap in garbage time. The defense was led by their ferocious center duo, as the JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard each blocked three shots in an outstanding display of rim-protection. Even without their Defensive Player of the Year candidate, the Lakers proved more than capable of locking down an elite offense. That proposition should terrify any Western Conference team hoping to oppose them in the postseason. 

LeBron James led the way offensively with 31 points and 12 assists, but it was Kyle Kuzma's 23 points that really sparked their second-half run. Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each poured in 20 points of their own, and despite getting almost nothing out of their point guards, the Lakers still managed to run away with this one down the stretch. 

With less than three weeks to go before the trade deadline, Houston now has to figure out what they can possibly do to contend with this Lakers behemoth. Mike D'Antoni had planned on using two bigs for most of this game prior to Anthony Davis being ruled out, but backed off that strategy against the seemingly smaller Lakers. The Rockets will get another look at the Lakers on Feb. 4, two days before the deadline, to see if they have another answer, but tonight's results were not encouraging. The Rockets controlled the tempo of this game, didn't need to go big and shot fairly close to their season averages. They still got pummeled, and unless something changes, odds are the result won't be any different if these two teams meet in the playoffs. 

SAT 8:30 P
HOU -2.5, o235.5
HOU -2.5, O/U 235.5

Season Leaders

A. Davis 26.6 PTS, 3.3 AST, 9.2 REB
A. Davis 26.6 PTS, 3.3 AST, 9.2 REB
J. Harden 35.3 PTS, 7.3 AST, 6.5 REB
J. Harden 35.3 PTS, 7.3 AST, 6.5 REB
L. James 25.0 PTS, 10.8 AST, 7.8 REB
L. James 25.0 PTS, 10.8 AST, 7.8 REB
J. Harden 35.3 PTS, 7.3 AST, 6.5 REB
J. Harden 35.3 PTS, 7.3 AST, 6.5 REB
A. Davis 26.6 PTS, 3.3 AST, 9.2 REB
A. Davis 26.6 PTS, 3.3 AST, 9.2 REB
C. Capela 13.9 PTS, 1.2 AST, 13.8 REB
C. Capela 13.9 PTS, 1.2 AST, 13.8 REB
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And we are done here in Houston. Final score: Lakers 124, Rockets 115. Los Angeles played one of its most dominant halves of the season in rolling over the Rockets during the final two quarters. Considering Anthony Davis' absence, the Lakers have to feel good about a potential rematch in the postseason.

January 19, 2020, 4:08 AM

LeBron just got MVP chants in Houston. James Harden is an actual MVP, a three-time runner-up and a serious candidate to win it again this year, but LeBron getting those chants in his building is a really damning bit of evidence against his candidacy.

January 19, 2020, 4:00 AM

And it looks like that's a wrap. The Lakers have the lead up to 16 with less than six minutes to go. The Lakers somehow managed to get two of their own players alone under the basket on a missed Troy Daniels 3-pointer. This one is over.

January 19, 2020, 3:55 AM

Sort of surprising to see the Lakers rest LeBron in the middle of the fourth quarter, but they've played the Rockets evenly so far. You'd think their goal would be to put the Rockets away quickly.

January 19, 2020, 3:54 AM

Lakers are cruising at this point. It's a 12-point game with under eight minutes remaining. Through 16 second-half minutes, they have allowed only 27 points.

January 19, 2020, 3:49 AM

KCP pushes the lead up to 15 on an and-one off of a ferocious dunk. Never say never when it comes to the Rockets, but the Lakers look like they've figured Houston out.

January 19, 2020, 3:42 AM

P.J. Tucker is headed to the locker room with the Lakers up nine. That doesn't necessarily clinch the game for LA, but it certainly doesn't help Houston's cause. Danuel House is currently trying (and failing) to defend LeBron.

January 19, 2020, 3:41 AM

The Lakers will bring a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter. They've found LeBron James 11 minutes of rest so far, so he should be good to go for the last 12. Kyle Kuzma is back in the bench area as well, so beyond Anthony Davis, the Lakers should be at full strength in the final frame.

January 19, 2020, 3:35 AM

Russell Westbrook knew he was shooting the moment Alex Caruso landed on him through a bad cross matchup. He got a pretty fortunate call, but more importantly, it shows how much trouble Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have given him in the third quarter.

January 19, 2020, 3:34 AM

Dwight Howard's defense has been sensational tonight. He's moving so well and handling his perimeter duties without compromising as a rim-protector.

January 19, 2020, 3:32 AM

Losing Kyle Kuzma is a really tough blow for the Lakers. Not only do they lose their innovative strategy for defending Russell Westbrook, but they are now missing the second- and third-best scorers. The Lakers still have an eight-point lead to work with, but things could get tough down the stretch.

January 19, 2020, 3:24 AM

January 19, 2020, 3:23 AM

Sure enough, the Lakers only bring in Alex Caruso when Russell Westbrook goes to the bench. They learned their lesson on that matchup in the first half.

January 19, 2020, 3:23 AM

Frank Vogel made one of the most ambitious adjustments of the season over the past few minutes, and it's working brilliantly. Kyle Kuzma has been defending Russell Westbrook. Kuzma's size is preventing Westbrook from bullying him as he has others, and Kuzma's real weakness defensively is navigating off-ball movement. Westbrook is mostly stationary off of the ball, so that hasn't been an issue. Every Laker has stepped up defensively, but Kuzma has been especially important in the third quarter.

January 19, 2020, 3:20 AM

The refs have had a very tight whistle so far tonight, which makes sense given the tension in last year's matchups. We had a string of several dubious offensive fouls earlier in the third, and now JaVale McGee has been called for a taunting technical despite directing the taunts towards the fans rather than a Rockets player.

January 19, 2020, 3:14 AM

The Lakers have their first lead of the night thanks largely to a great defensive stretch and a streamlined offensive approach. Gone are the complicated scripted plays of the first quarter. LeBron is hunting for Harden and it's paying major dividends.

January 19, 2020, 3:11 AM

LeBron is playing free safety defensively right now. Nominally he's guarding Danuel House, but he's functionally serving as additional rim-protection, a passing lane deterrent and a soft-doubler.

January 19, 2020, 3:10 AM

The Lakers have now begun back-to-back possessions with Kyle Kuzma screening for LeBron. James Harden is defending Kuzma, so LeBron gets the matchup he wants through the switch.

January 19, 2020, 3:07 AM

The cheers in Houston for Dwight Howard's technical are pretty funny considering his redemption in Los Angeles. Who knows. Maybe one day he comes back to Houston and redeems himself among Rockets fans.

January 19, 2020, 3:05 AM

Last halftime thought: it would make sense for the Rockets to switch less in the second half. We started seeing Tucker duck under screens late in the second quarter as opposed to switching them outright hoping to get LeBron to shoot. In a macro sense, that's probably their best bet. The Lakers don't shoot well enough as a team to make switching necessary, and their size creates so many risks in doing so even aside from LeBron roasting an overmatched guard.

January 19, 2020, 2:58 AM

Wouldn't be surprised to see the Lakers go bigger in the backcourt in the second half and try more of the Danny Green-Kentavious Caldwell-Pope pairing. Not only do they match up better with Russell Westbrook, but are more patient and won't foul James Harden as much. Avery Bradley and Alex Caruso are aggressive for a reason. It works in most matchups. It hasn't in this one.

January 19, 2020, 2:49 AM

Stories of the game with one half in the books:

1. Russell Westbrook is too physical for the Davis-less Lakers. This might just be a bad matchup for Alex Caruso.

2. The Lakers have absolutely no playmaking beyond LeBron. He has five assists. The rest of the team has six, but no player besides him has more than one.

3. The Lakers have to feel fairly good, all things considered. They are losing on the boards, from behind the arc and in term of assists, but are still down only six points at the half. Some hot shooting could swing this game and get them a big road win even without Davis.

January 19, 2020, 2:47 AM

The Rockets are starting to pull away. The lead is up to 11 as the Lakers have no answer for Russell Westbrook. This is where things will look different in the playoffs. Davis changes everything defensively. The Lakers will likely trim the rotation down and find the one or two guards who can defend him. But tonight? He's done whatever he's wanted.

January 19, 2020, 2:43 AM

LeBron's switch-hunting continues. When he's been in the game in the second quarter, the Lakers have devoted just about all of their offensive resources to springing him off of Tucker. Their success in doing so is unsurprising. Houston has no other viable defenders for him, so LeBron is getting screens practically every time he gets the ball.

January 19, 2020, 2:38 AM

Kyle Kuzma is wading into an ocean of arms every time he tries to drive. With LeBron off of the floor, the Rockets aren't respecting the Lakers' shooters at all.

January 19, 2020, 2:32 AM

Just as the Rockets held their own with Harden off of the floor, the Lakers are now doing the same with LeBron resting. They've been trying to find him some bench minutes in the second quarter all season, and haven't wavered with Davis out. Caruso and Dwight Howard have picked up the slack, and the are Lakers +4 so far during this James rest.

January 19, 2020, 2:30 AM

Attacking size mismatches has been the name of the game so far. Russell Westbrook is going after Alex Caruso just about every time down the floor. The Lakers are engineering switches off of screens to get Tucker off of LeBron.

January 19, 2020, 2:24 AM

Here's a sentence I didn't expect to write tonight: the Rockets are absolutely killing the Lakers on the boards. It's 19-12 in their favor thus far. Even without Davis, the Lakers are the bigger team here.

January 19, 2020, 2:20 AM

LeBron James has made as many shots so far (one) as Russell Westbrook has missed (he is 7-of-8 from the field). That is a formula for losing. With Davis out, the Lakers need LeBron to lead them as a scorer. P.J. Tucker has been phenomenal on him thus far.

January 19, 2020, 2:17 AM

LeBron has really functioned as a power forward so far in the second quarter. Turned a double in the post into a nice jumper, and has generally operated with his back to the basket so far.

January 19, 2020, 2:15 AM
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