LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 62 points and 21 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers resisted a second-half rally to defeat the Houston Rockets 117-109 and level their Western Conference semi-final at 1-1.
Los Angeles Lakers
Series tied 1-1
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James narrowly missed a triple-double, finishing with 28 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
What began as a Lakers blowout turned tight in the second half. The Lakers led by as many as 21 points early in the second quarter, but needed to survive the Rockets’ surge after intermission.
The Lakers outscored the Rockets 27-17 in the fourth quarter, flipping a 92-90 deficit into an eight-point win. A James turnaround jumper to give the Lakers a 117-109 lead with 32.3 seconds to seal the win.
Sunday’s fourth quarter was a turnaround from Friday’s Game 1, when the Rockets pulled away in the final period to clinch a double-digit victory.
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The Rockets’ third-quarter surge was, predictably, sparked by the three-point shot. Houston went 9-of-13 from deep in the period. That included a four-point play by Robert Covington to cut the Lakers’ lead to 80-79 with 5:07 left in the quarter, and another triple by Covington to give the Rockets an 82-80 lead.
Overall, Houston outscored the Lakers 41-23 in the third quarter, and led by as many as five points.
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But James started the fourth quarter with a driving dunk to tie the score at 92. Less than two minutes later, a Rajon Rondo pull-up gave the Lakers a 96-94 advantage, before Alex Caruso found James for a one-handed, alley-oop slam.
The run extended to 23-9, with a Davis driving finish giving the Lakers a 113-101 lead with less than four minutes to play.
James said following Game 1 that his team had needed live action to adjust to the Rockets’ speed. Early on Sunday night, the Lakers were the team dashing through the open court for 16 fast-break points in the first quarter.
The Lakers were much more successful Sunday against a Rockets defense that entered Sunday as the NBA’s best in the playoffs. The Lakers shot 56.6 per cent from the field and scored 54 points in the paint. They also scored 27 points off 17 Rockets turnovers.
Davis took advantage of the Rockets’ ‘micro-ball’ style throughout, scoring 34 points in a variety of ways on 15-of-24 shooting. Markieff Morris scored 16 points off the bench.
James Harden finished with 27 points and seven assists. Eric Gordon scored 24 points, including a 6-of-12 mark from three-point range, and PJ Tucker recorded 18 points and 11 rebounds. Russell Westbrook struggled, making just four of 15 shots and committing seven turnovers.
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The Lakers built a 16-point first-quarter lead by holding the Rockets to a 3-of-15 start from the floor and forcing five turnovers. The Lakers also got a massive jolt from their bench in the period. Morris went 4-of-4 from three-point range to score 12 points and Rajon Rondo dished out six assists in six minutes.
Lakers starting center JaVale McGee went to the locker room with left ankle pain late in the third quarter and did not return. He played eight minutes and did not score.