Rockets guard David Nwaba tries to evade Lakers forward LeBron James during their NBA playoffs game. Picture: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters
Rockets guard David Nwaba tries to evade Lakers forward LeBron James during their NBA playoffs game. Picture: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

LeBron James, Anthony Davis help Lakers to hold off Rockets to even series

By Reuters Time of article published Sep 7, 2020

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ORLANDO - LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 62 points and 21 rebounds as the Lakers held off the fourth-seeded Rockets' second-half rally to win 117-109 Sunday night to even-up their Western Conference semi-finals series 1-1 at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex.

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 play all but sealed 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.

The Rockets' third-quarter surge was, predictably, sparked by the 3-point shot. Houston went 9-of-13 from deep in the third quarter alone. That included a four-point play by Robert Covington to cut the Lakers' lead to 80-79 with 5:07 left in the period, and another 3 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.

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 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 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 3-point range, and P.J. Tucker totaled 18 points and 11 rebounds. Russell Westbrook struggled, making just four of 15 shots and committing seven turnovers.

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 3-point range to score 12 points and three minutes, and Rajon Rondo dished out six assists in six minutes.

That Lakers' advantage grew to 21 on a James dunk early in the second quarter. Houston trimmed that gap to 51-42 on a Danuel House layup with less than five minutes to play, but the Lakers finished the half on a 16-9 run to take a 67-51 lead into the locker room.

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.

Field Level Media via Reuters

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