For the fifth time in six games the Lakers were the last team standing, beating the Rockets 105-104 in a tightly contested game that came down to the final seconds. The win lifts the Lakers to 8-6 on the season and was another clutch victory for team that has been excellent at finishing close games this season.
The difference was a LeBron James free throw, the product of a foul-earning drive that came after the Rockets tied the game with just four seconds remaining on a layup of their own. LeBron tried to match that Houston bucket, but they were not going to let him, instead making him earn it at the stripe. After LeBron split the free throws to give his team a one-point lead, Dillon Brooks’ last second heave veered wide left, leaving the Lakers victorious.
Beyond the game winner, LeBron was again brilliant in this one, scoring a season-high 37 points on an incredibly efficient 14-of-19 shooting to go along with six rebounds, eight assists, and three steals. LeBron did not discriminate in how he attacked offensively, operating as a true three-level scorer by torching Houston from behind the arc, the mid-range, and when getting to the rim to score over and around the Rockets’ defense.
Joining LeBron in closing out the Rockets was Austin Reaves, who hit some critical buckets of his own down the stretch, and served as the main counterbalance to LeBron’s offensive output in the 4th quarter. Reaves scored nine of his 17 points in the final frame, connecting on both of his field goal attempts and four of his five foul shots in the period. Of all his shots, however, none was more important than the three-pointer he hit with 23 seconds left in the game to put the Lakers up by three.
After the game, Austin noted that he didn’t know how deep the shot was, but said that he has confidence in himself to knock these sorts of shots down. And the Lakers are sure happy that he does.
Beyond LeBron and Reaves, Anthony Davis also had an absolutely terrific performance, particularly in the first three quarters. Davis played with foul trouble most of the night — and fouled out with just under a minute left in the game — but did not let that deter him from having a major impact on the game.
AD scored 27 points, connecting on 11 of his 15 attempts from the field while grabbing a team-high 10 rebounds to go along with three assists, two steals, and a block. Davis was again dominant from the post offensively, establishing deep position and scoring with ease on a variety jump hooks, turnarounds, and layups vs. a Houston defense that had little chance of slowing him once he got into his move.
Though the team had those strong individual performances, from a team perspective the Lakers struggled to connect on their shots from the outside and could never quite find their range even on some high-quality looks. They connected on just six of their 29 attempts from beyond the arc, with Taurean Prince (0-4 from deep, 1-11 overall) and D’Angelo Russell (1-5 from deep, 1-8 overall) having particular issues getting into a rhythm on that end of the floor.
With the Lakers’ offense out of sync (outside of LeBron, Davis, and Reaves), they became more reliant on their defense to carry them and did well to disrupt Houston’s offense with activity and hustle all over the floor. The Lakers forced the Rockets into 18 turnovers on the night, with the Lakers turning those into 24 points. On a night that Houston outscored them by 24 points from beyond the arc, the Lakers winning the turnover battle and getting some easy points out of those miscues was paramount in them getting this win.
Cam Reddish was particularly important in this area, posting three steals and getting countless other deflections in his game-high 39 minutes of action. It was the sixth time in seven games that Reddish tallied at least three steals in a game, showing once again the type of impact he can have both on and off the ball defensively.
Overall, then, this was not the prettiest of wins, but the Lakers got it done with enough defensive fortitude and late game execution to hold on. They will look to keep this momentum going when they host the Jazz in the final game of the group-play portion of then In-Season Tournament on Tuesday.