The Los Angeles Lakers kicked off the 2016-2017 NBA regular season with a tough game against the Houston Rockets. Check out our full recap:
The Lakers opened up with a lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Luol Deng, Julius Randle, and Timofey Mozgov. Houston got out to a fast start, hitting a three on their first possession by Ryan Anderson. The Lakers opened the scorebook with a bucket by Julius Randle in the post, but the Rockets refused to miss on the other end.
The Lakers hung tough, and a 9-0 run on threes from Young, Deng, and Russell knotted the game at 15 a piece. Harden took over for a bit on offense, baiting his way to the free-throw line, but the Lakers hung tough with baskets from Mozgov and Russell. Noth sides got out and played at a fast pace, putting up over 60 points combined with three minutes to play in the quarter.
Harden was absolutely torching the Lakers as the point guard, running the pick and roll to perfection and dishing for nine assists while also putting in 12 points, but Lou Williams hit a three to end the quarter tied at 38.
The game continued its frenetic pace to start the second quarter, when the Lakers used their bench lineup of Jordan Clarkson, Williams, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., and Tarik Black. Lakers coach Luke Walton continued his experiment of using Ingram at point guard, and it worked out well. Huertas came in to give the team a more traditional point guard, and Mozgov subbed back in and continued his strong play from the first quarter, finishing several times at the rim to bring his point total to 12.
The Rockets continued to run and gun, but defense clearly wasn’t on the minds of either team. With six minutes to play in the quarter, the Lakers led 53-50.
The Lakers went back to their starting unit, but so did the Rockets, and Anderson immediately hit a three and then a turnover from Russell gave the Rockets a quick lead. Randle was able to go back at Anderson on the other end, but Harden continued to do it all for Houston, scoring easy baskets and setting up teammates. A Trevor Ariza three brought the score to 61-55 in favor of the Rockets, prompting a timeout from the Lakers.
Randle started to get going, scoring inside and getting out and running, but Harden continued to pass the Rockets into easy baskets, picking up his 13th assist on a Clint Capella layup. Harden flopped on a three and the officials fell for it, allowing him to bring the Rockets to a 71-63 lead to finish the half.
The Lakers opened the quarter with a three from Young, and then got a stop on a 24-second violation. A jumper from Russell brought the lead down to three, and another stop showed improved defensive focus from the Lakers. Harden continued to orchestrate things for Houston, setting up Cappella for yet another lob, but the Lakers hung in there after a great sequence where Russell hit a cutting Mozgov, who dropped the ball off to Randle for the slam.
Randle pulled off a nice behind-the-back dribble around Harden and kicked out to Russell, who missed the three. Mozgov quickly grabbed the offensive rebound and threw a behind-the-back pass to Russell for another try, and he drained it to end a surreal play and bring the Lakers within two, 79-77.
Walton turned to his bench but elected to use Randle as a small-ball center rather than turn to Black. Clarkson scored on an acrobatic up-and-under layup, and the Lakers appeared intent on hanging around.
Walton brought Metta World Peace into the game with two minutes to play in the third in order to defend Harden, and Clarkson hit a three to tie the game at 88. Unfortunately, Harden got a few crucial baskets and finished the quarter with another drawn foul on a three to give the Rockets a 96-90 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Lakers began the fourth with a lineup featuring Ingram, Nance, Clarkson, Black, and Williams. With Harden out of the game for a rest, the Lakers looked to make up some ground and tied the game on a pair of free throws from Black. The Lakers defense still wasn’t very stingy, but it looked better than it did in the first half.
The Lakers took the lead 103-100 on a Williams three, and with eight minutes to play D’Antoni signaled Harden To return. Jordan Clarkson got to the rim for a basket and a foul, but the stoppage allowed Harden to come back into the game. He quickly scored, but then picked up his fifth foul while contesting a Clarkson jumper.
The Rockets attempted to keep Harden from fouling out by having him defend Ingram, but the rookie couldn’t make him pay. It felt like the Lakers should be surging ahead, but with just under five minutes to play, the score was just 110-108 in favor of Los Angeles. They forced an airball by Harden but then couldn’t convert on a Young three at the other end.
Harden tied the game on a pair of free throws, and the Lakers offense looked a bit tense as the game pulled into the final minutes. Deng was able to give the Lakers the lead again on a tip-in on a Russell miss, but it was a sloppy play where everything broke down, which is typical of a young team.
The Lakers fouled Harden off the ball again to send him to the line for the 16th time, giving up points needlessly. Russell got to the line and converted on one, and a three from Clarkson temporarily gave the Lakers a four-point lead. Nene banked in a two, but a put-back by Clarkson on a Young miss matched it. Harden then attempted to draw a foul against Clarkson but the ball popped loose, and Russell dove to the floor to secure it, leading to a Randle basket at the other end. With just 45 seconds to play, the Lakers had the lead, 120-114.
Houston fired away from three in an attempt to catch up, but it wasn’t enough. In the end, the Lakers started the season the right way and got the win, 120-114.