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5:48 pm PST – 57 min. until tipoff
Still no word on who Phil Jackson will replace Derek Fisher with tonight — my guess is Jordan Farmar (as opposed to Shannon Brown) because Brown is playing at a much higher level than Farmar right now. You're probably thinking, “That's why you should start Brown,” but, by inserting Farmar into the starting lineup, you are asking him to do far less than if he comes off the bench with the rest of the second unit. Brown, on the other hand, adds more to a bench mob that clearly lacks many of the individual and collective abilities of the starting five — at least on paper — than does Farmar.
6:26 pm PST – 19 min. until tipoff
I believe the winner of tonight's game will win the series. If the Lakers win, the pressure will be on the Rockets to win Game 4 in order to avoid heading back to Los Angeles down 3-1. If the Rockets win, the pressure will be on the Lakers to tie the series up in what promises to be a hostile Toyota Center environment not only in tonight's game, but perhaps even more so in Game 4.
6:33 pm PST – 12 min. until tipoff
It is official that Jordan Farmar will replace Derek Fisher as tonight's starting point guard. Fisher has plugged 161 career playoff games — 110 of which have come as a starter — while this will be Farmar's 31st career playoff game and sixth start. Talk about two extremes.
6:46 remaining – 1st Quarter
The Lakers aren't running the triangle — too much one-on-one. The offense will eventually become stagnant if they keep this up.
2:47 remaining – 1st Quarter
All of the sudden the Lakers are running the offense and exhibiting great ball movement — 12 field goals on 6 assists, not too shabby. Either the Rockets aren't rotating in a timely manner, or the Los Angeles offense is running on all cylinders. I'll go with the latter.
2:18 remaining – 1st Quarter
Trevor Ariza needs to remain within himself and not try to do too much. Now with two fouls following that charging call, the Lakers best perimeter defender will have to take a seat on a bench for the rest of this opening quarter and probably well into the second. Look for Ron Artest to explode.
End of 1st Quarter – 30-28 (LA)
Each team's offense is efficient: Houston – 11-19 (59%) on 8 assists and Los Angeles – 14-23 (61%) on 8 assists. The main differences are in the steal (4-0) and points of turnover (8-0) categories, both of which favor the Lakers.
11:04 remaining – 2nd Quarter
You have to love the point guard match-ups: Farmar-Brooks and Brown-Lowry — speed vs. strength.
6:03 remaining – 2nd Quarter
If Luke Walton was just handed a technical for kicking the ball, I couldn't disagree more. That shouldn't have been whistled a T — just a delay-of-game penalty. I can understand why he and Phil Jackson are upset about the call. He was standing over Lowry, however, so it could have been a combination of that and giving the leather a boot.
2:25 remaining – 2nd Quarter
You have to respect the highly-disciplined defense we're seeing from Houston. Switching screens, contesting every shot and, most of all, not fouling. The Lakers need to remain under control and continue to move the ball.
Halftime – 50-48 (LA)
Despite leading at halftime, the Lakers offense dulled in the second quarter — they lowered their shooting percentage from a scorching 61% in the first quarter to just 30% in the second for a 46% first-half mark. Los Angeles attempted the same number of field goals in the second quarter that it did in the first (23), yet it only converted on half of those attempts (7) in the latter quarter. If the Lakers want to win this game, their front court — notably Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, who combined for 10 points and 8 rebounds in the first half — needs step up in the second half. Houston, meanwhile, displayed some hard-nosed defense in the second quarter, as it surrendered a mere 18 points to the Lakers (as opposed to 30 in the first). If the Rockets wants to win this game, their bench needs to provide more of a contribution. As of now, it's Los Angeles' bench 14, Houston's 7.
6:37 remaining – 3rd Quarter
The Lakers jump out to a 62-54 lead and look the same that they did to begin the game: focused. Houston's offense looks disrupted. Yao needs to become more of a focal point. The inside-out game worked for the Rockets in the first half — there's no reason why that success shouldn't continue here in the second, but it all starts with running their offense through Yao.
2:50 remaining – 3rd Quarter
It's a double-digit lead for Los Angeles — 66-56 — but Houston isn't going anywhere, and it's still anyone's game. The Lakers are starting to play with fire because they're not pushing the pedal to the metal and, if the Rockets can reel off a scoring run to close this quarter, regain some momentum and get their crowd back into it, Los Angeles may not be able to hold off Houston.
End of 3rd Quarter – 74-62 (LA)
Kobe's three-point buzzer-beater appears to be a nail in the coffin. Houston only scored 14 points in the quarter. Throughout the first half of the quarter, the Rockets were shooting themselves in the foot on the offensive end, but in the second half the Lakers really turned it up defensively. If the Rockets don't come out with a strong effort to begin the fourth, the Lakers will be in a prime position to take a 2-1 series lead.
8:31 remaining – 4th Quarter
Kobe is taking a rather interesting approach in this fourth quarter: Instead of trying to completely take over the game (like we usually see from him in most fourth quarters — regular season or postseason), he's playing the facilitator role and taking whatever the defense gives him — and it's working.
5:51 remaining – 4th Quarter
The Lakers are seemingly getting whatever they want on the offensive end, but they're allowing Houston to have multiple shot attempts per possession. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they're shooting continues to plummet — only 30 second-half points thus far.
3:03 remaining – 4th Quarter
A few side notes: 1) Shane Battier has defended Kobe for most of this game and only has two fouls — very impressive — and 2) Former Laker and current Rocket Brian Cook has played just one minute in this series, but I'm sure he'd love to be out there battling against the squad that drafted him.
1:22 remaining – 4th Quarter
We might as well spell 'cold-blooded' with a 'K', as in Kobe.
43.6 sec remaining – 4th Quarter
There is no way Artest should have been ejected with a flagrant-2 foul on Gasol — that wasn't even a flagrant-1. What are players supposed to do when an opposing player drives the lane — put their hands in the pocket and look pretty?
Final Score – LAL 108, HOU 94
From the opening tip until the final seconds of Game 3, simply stated: The Lakers looked like they wanted it more than the Rockets — and after Game 1's embarrassment, they probably did. Yao Ming never caught a rhythm in the second half (only 5 of his 19 points came in the final two quarters) and Houston's starting five struggled throughout, combining for 67 points on 26-61 shooting with more turnovers (14) than assists (11); to add insult to injury, every starter had a negative +/- stat. Conversely, 87 of Los Angeles' 108 total points came from its starters, each of whom finished in double figures and with at least a +11 in the +/- category. The X factor for the Lakers undoubtedly was Jordan Farmar, whose final line — 12 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in 33 minutes — speaks for itself. Now with a 2-1 series lead, the Lakers look to extend this year's record at the
Toyota Center to 4-0 and, more importantly, take a 3-1 advantage back to Los Angeles for Game 5. Game 4 is set for Sunday at 12:30 pm PST.
About the Author
Written by Josh Hoffman