James Harden Drops 36 as Rockets Beat LeBron James, Lakers in Game 1

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Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) drives to the basket ahead of Los Angeles Lakers' Markieff Morris (88) during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Houston Rockets opened their Western Conference second-round playoff series with a 112-97 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.

A 14-0 run in the beginning of the fourth quarter propelled the Rockets to a 101-82 edge en route to victory. L.A. went 4:12 without scoring during that span and never came closer than 13 points down the stretch.

Rockets guard James Harden led all scorers with 36 points on 12-of-20 shooting (3-of-6 from three-point range).

The Rockets broke the Lakers’ four-game winning streak in the process. L.A. had beaten the Portland Trail Blazers in four straight after dropping Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.


Notable Performances

Rockets G James Harden: 36 points, 5 assists, 2 steals

Rockets G Russell Westbrook: 24 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists

Rockets G Eric Gordon: 23 points, 3 rebounds

Lakers G/F LeBron James: 20 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists

Lakers F/C Anthony Davis: 25 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks

Lakers G Alex Caruso: 14 points, 4 assists


Rockets’ Defense Continues to Shine

The Rockets opened the seeding-game portion of the NBA schedule by allowing 149 points in an overtime game against the Dallas Mavericks, with four Mavs combining for 123 of those points.

It didn’t matter as Houston scored 153 in a four-point victory, but defense largely hasn’t been a strong suit for Houston this year with the team allowing the 23rd most points per game and ranking a mediocre 14th in defensive rating among all 30 NBA franchises.

Their defense turned up a notch in the playoffs en route to outscoring the Oklahoma City Thunder by 28 points in Games 1 and 2 of the first round, but it fell apart in Game 3 and 4 in which they allowed 118.0 points on average.

However, Houston’s defense has been largely on point ever since. The Rockets gave up just 80 points in a 34-point victory in Game 5 and came up with huge defensive plays in the final seconds of their 104-102 Game 7 win over OKC on Wednesday.

That d

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