It started forty five minutes before the tip, the Dwight Howard animus, the booing. Perhaps it was about him. Or perhaps it was misplaced energy about Steve Blake being traded for two players Lakers fans never heard of but two different kind of players, one who has offensive talent and one who has defensive talent. Or perhaps it was both. We miss Steve Blake. But we hate what you did to us Howard. Or how you tricked us. Or that you never appreciated us.
But amid all of the upheaval there was a game to play even though the Lakers only had 8 players dressed. Dwight Howard made his first shot in the post, then blocked a shot, then had a rebound, then dunked, then got a technical. All in the first two minutes. The Rockets continued to feed him the ball and he was energized. Chris Kaman looked intimidated and fatigued having to keep up with Howard’s energy. Still the Lakers kept the game close early and trailed by two half way through the first quarter, 14-12. The Rockets dominated the Lakers with their speed and athleticism and by the end of the quarter they had a 12 point lead. In the second quarter more of the same. Offensive rebounds and dunks and driving layups with no resistance. Chris Kaman was miserable. He played as if he knew this was going to be a humiliating affair and it mostly was. His shot was routinely blocked and he seemed to accept his fate that Howard was a better player, more athletic, motivated and simple dominant. Wesley Johnson was the best Lakers on the floor and Kendall did his assist thing but the rest of the team was awful. Ryan Kelly missed nearly every shot he threw up. Jodie Meeks played leisurely, not his normal hard nosed self. Jordan Farmar entered the game and made a three and then dribbled in the paint and turned the ball over which was a theme for the Lakers. The Rockets were too quick on the perimeter and the Lakers could not adjust to their speed nor their energy and determination in the paint. They played as if they did not take the Lakers seriously, as if the Lakers were not even an NBA team. The Lakers trailed by 21 at the half. They had 1 offensive rebound. The Rockets outrebounded them by 21. The Rockets shot a worse percentage from three and the free throw line but already had 64 points.
In the second half it was water torture. It was five players who rolled out the ball and played because they had to. And no coaching whatsoever. D’antoni has accepted his fate and it settled in that Steve Blake was traded with zero input from him. So much for his influence. D’antoni did not even have Steve Nash on the bench to make him feel better. As far as the game went it was pretty pathetic how the Lakers gave in. The Rockets are good but the Lakers played like a D-League team. They did not exhibit any semblance of defense and they looked like a broken team, as if they were waiting for the ceiling to cave in, or for the rest of the team to be traded. They know the truth. The Steve Blake trade was a punch in the mouth. Nothing matters anymore, except for their careers, and where they go from here. But back to the slaughter. A 20 point deficit was 30. Why pretend? Why do what professionals should do in a game in which they are being paid. Like score. Like prevent the other team from scoring. Like feel remorse for the absence of effort. Jeff Van Gundy nailed it early when he said of Chris Kaman, “He is not competing.” It affected the rest of the team too. They did not contest shots, they did not play offense with any sort of purpose. Of course when management begins dismantling your team it is hard not to give up; the front office is begging you to follow their lead. The Lakers front court of Chris Kaman and Ryan Kelly missed 17 out of 25 shots. Kendall had his normal 16 assists. Jordan Hill, probably traded tomorrow, only missed two shots. Wesley Johnson with his 24 points was the player of the game for what it’s worth. The last time the Lakers lost by more than 25 points was against the Clippers on January 10th, fifty days ago. Who said they weren’t making progress?