Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rockets Rout the Lakers: A Showcase in Heart & Hustle

Today the Houston Rockets took down the Los Angeles Lakers 99-87. The Rockets were missing their best player Yao Ming, who was out with a broken foot.

After the Rockets stole the first game in Los Angeles, they promptly responded by getting blown out in the next two. Facing a 2-1 series deficit and missing their best player, the Rockets could have easily mailed in the next two games and started their summer vacation a few days early.

But they didn't. This afternoon the Rockets jumped out to an early 9-0 lead that they never relinquished. They started strong and showed the Lakers that they had no intention of laying down after Yao was declared out for the rest of the series.

In a post game recap for ESPN, former Laker great Magic Johnson said "The Lakers embarrassed themselves, the organization, and the Laker fans."

Clearly Earvin was not happy, and he had every right not to be.

Led on offense by minute guard Aaron Brooks (34 pts. 12/20 shooting) and supposed defensive specialist Shane Battier (23 pts. 6/12 shooting) the Rockets made all the plays necessary to take down the Lakers.

But the story here lies in the Rockets out-hustling the Lakers for loose balls, rebounds, and simply (using a cliché) wanting it more.

One can look no further in the box score to see where things went wrong for the Lakers. The Rockets out rebounded the Lakers 43-37 and 11-8 on the offensive glass, even without 7 foot-6 Yao Ming in the lineup.

Over the course of a game 6 rebounds, doesn't seem like much, but in reality, it is. During the regular season, Portland led the league in rebound differential at +5.4 per game and Golden State had the worst at -5.1 per game.

But those numbers don't tell the whole story. After doing a little math (check it out - Spreadsheet Here), I discovered that the average height of a player on the floor (on a per minute basis) for the Lakers was 6 feet 7 1/2 inches. The average height of a Rockets player was 6 feet 5 inches.

The Rockets gave up 2 1/2 inches per player! Over an entire foot of height for the whole team on the court!! And the Lakers were still out rebounded at a margin that would have been the best in the Association this season? How is that possible?

6-6 power forward Chuck Hayes pulled down the same amount of rebounds (9) as 7 foot Pau Gasol. 6-9 Louis Scola grabbed almost as many boards (14) as the top two Laker rebounders combined (15).

Those numbers are indicative of one team simply exerting more energy and trying harder. Basketball is a game where hustle can trump skill, and the Rockets clearly displayed that they wanted nothing more than to take down the mighty Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers were content to let this happen, as they stood idly while the Rockets were determined to out worked them for the win. Because when you're almost 3 inches taller than your opponent, there is no excuse for losing the battle on the boards.

The Rockets may not win this series, because often talent trumps effort, but tonight they overcame the odds and won a game they had no business winning. Let's hope they can do it twice more.

Author's Note: Take a look at the spreadsheet, I did a little more than adding up every player's height and dividing it by the minutes they played. It's a pretty cool document.

No comments:

Post a Comment