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The Los Angeles Lakers took care of business on Saturday night. Jumping out to a 22-point lead in the first quarter, they cruised to a 119-96 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of their second-round series. With the win, they took the series, 4-1, to advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2010.
LeBron James was not messing around in this one, finishing with 29 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a dominant performance. The other big story for the Lakers was their 3-point shooting, as they knocked down 19 shots from downtown, setting a new franchise playoff record.
James Harden did his thing, registering 30 points, six rebounds and five assists, but it wasn’t anywhere near enough for the Rockets. They got off to a terrible start, and though they made a run late in the second quarter and early in the third, they completely collapsed after that point. They shot just 37.1 percent from the field, and turned the ball over 12 times in the loss.
Last season was the first time since 2010 that LeBron James did not make the NBA Finals, and the first time since 2005 that he didn’t make the playoffs. There was no doubt the latter would change after they acquired Anthony Davis in the offseason, and now LeBron is on a mission to make sure the former is remedied as well.
He set the tone early, driving hard to the rim for multiple baskets in the first few minutes, including an awesome coast-to-coast slam. For the game, he finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in one of his best performances of the postseason, and did it all in just 30 minutes.
In the process of putting on another brilliant playoff show, LeBron also made history in Game 5. He joined Oscar Robertson as the only two players in NBA postseason history to put up at least 250 points, 100 rebounds and 80 assists in their first 10 games of a playoff season. After everything he’s done in his legendary career, it’s surprising to hear there are new records LeBron can set.
The Lakers were not a particularly impressive 3-point shooting team this season, hitting 34.9 percent of their attempts to finish 21st in the league. In the postseason, it’s been pretty much the same story. Entering Game 5 against the Rockets, they were shooting 34 percent from downtown, which was good for 13th among all playoff teams, and was the worst mark of any remaining team.
There were no such troubles on Saturday night, however. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a triple for the first bucket of the game, and they were off and running. They hit seven 3s in the first quarter and finished the night 19 of 37 to tie a season-high, and set a new franchise playoff record.
The @Lakers knock down an #NBAPlayoffs franchise-record 19 three-pointers in Game 5 as they advance to the Western Conference Finals!#LakeShow #WholeNewGame pic.twitter.com/lyigwES7Ir
Markieff Morris (4-of-4) and Danny Green (4-of-6) led the way, while LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma each hit three triples of their own. Not only was it the best 3-point shooting night in Lakers playoff history, but they beat the Rockets at their own game, outscoring Houston by 18 points from the 3-point line.
The Rockets made big changes this season, trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, and going all-in on their small-ball attack. It was a fascinating experiment, and there were times when they had tremendous success. But once again, as has been the case so often for this team, everything fizzled out in the playoffs.
And after this latest loss, it seems like there might not be the next time — at least not with this group. Head coach Mike D’Antoni’s contract is up, and he seems on his way out, while there have also been rumors about GM Daryl Morey’s future with the franchise. And then there are decisions to make about the roster, which showed once again it’s not capable of competing for a title.
One thing that’s for certain is James Harden will be back. There figures to be plenty of changes around him, though. Houston is going to be one of the most interesting teams to watch this offseason — both in terms of their roster and the front office.
* @KingJames has now won 15 of his last 16 closeout games … I asked him about his approach: « I come in with the same desperation as the opponent. »
HIGHLIGHTS: @KingJames puts up 29 pts, 11 reb and 7 ast to close out the series. pic.twitter.com/3ISpsTJj0b
Vogel on the role players around LeBron/AD: “We have an army of guys that can really step up on any given night … that’s a tough thing to prepare for. »
Whole squad came together to close this one out. #LakersWin @KingJames: 29 pts, 11 reb, 7 [email protected]: 17 [email protected]: 16 [email protected]_14: 14 [email protected]: 13 pts, 11 [email protected]: 10 pts https://t.co/ySQjuPM6RH
Quiets kept the biggest trade/signing at the deadline…. one @Keefmorris !!!! 🔥🔥🔥 Man can guard on the perimeter, tough as nails and space the floor… Game ball boi!!!!!
The answer: 0 more seconds for LeBron, who was replaced by Dudley. LeBron had 29 points, 11 boards and 7 assists with 2 steals and 1 block, and a +19. https://t.co/PDjMY1fOh4
lakers are now 18-30 from downtown and have set a new franchise record for 3s made in a playoff game
james harden has 27 points, but no one else on the rockets is even in double figures. lakers are up by 22
lakers are up by 20 and the announcers have resorted to laughing about how eric gordon’s airball hit all net and looked like it went in
rockets had a great start to the second half and had cut the deficit down to six at one point, but the lakers immediately responded with a 9-0 run and it’s a 16-point game now
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