As they placed Anthony Davis on the injured list, the Los Angeles Lakers were cautious and pumped up by every ounce of their confidence to grab a needed win against the Houston Rockets.
But instead of what could be a good win for them, the Laker club was shell-shocked in the aftermath of their Wednesday night matchup against their Conference tailenders, taking home a 114-110 defeat.
In the postgame, coach Darvin Ham quickly aired his disappointment to his team for failing to exert effort and energy with their season on the line for each game remaining.
“We talked about it and I said it before games, nongame days: Energy, effort and urgency. And I thought coming out of the gates that kind of was nonexistent,’’ Ham said, per Broderick Turner of Los Angeles Times. “I didn’t see a lot of that. I saw it on their part, Houston. Young team. Regardless of what their record is, they came to play and we felt them. They made us feel them, in terms of them attacking the paint, them getting hits, them getting offensive rebounds, giving themselves extra possessions. We should have been the ones playing with that type of edge.”
As Davis just settled to wear street clothes and not purple and gold gear, Ham opted to assign both Jared Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura to temporarily anchor their paint.
Amid this adjustment made, Houston capitalized on the All-Star big’s absence and feasted in L.A.’s interior to build up an early momentum led by Turkish prospect Alperen Sengun, as the young club finished a collective 78 markers on the shaded area.
“It’s a product of us not being good on the ball,” Ham said about Houston’s inside game. “That individual pride it takes to keep the ball in front and guys behind knowing that the paint is the priority. This team lives in the paint. The Houston Rockets live in the paint.
“And whether it’s drives, whether it’s giving themselves second and third possessions on one particular play through their offensive rebounding, they live and thrive in the paint. And we preached that to them before the game.”
D’Angelo Russell had 18 markers and seven assists, Malik Beasley got 16, and Jared Vanderbilt posted 13 points and 10 boards. Off the bench, both Austin Reaves (24) and Dennis Schroder (16) churned chunky marks to power as supporting casts.
Despite the five of them scoring double-digits, the Lakers were inconsistent from the field, shooting 37.8 percent. They were also outmatched on the glass, tallying 36 rebounds over the Rockets’ 51.
For the second-straight time in four days, Los Angeles failed to reach the .500 win mark, now holding a 34-36 card as they are set to face the Dallas Mavericks on Friday at Crypto.com Arena.
They only got 12 games left to determine their place at the conclusion of the 2022-23 regular season.
“We just got to play the game like it’s our last,” Vanderbilt said. “We’re running out of time. We got what, 12 games left? We have no more freebies. We never had none to begin with. But we need all these games. We need to win as much as possible, especially ones like tonight against teams that aren’t even fighting for playoff positions, especially Western Conference teams. We need to win those games.”