In the first game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Houston Rockets surprised everyone by dismantling them 112-97 to take a 1-0 lead. James Harden and Russell Westbrook led the way with a combined 60 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. The bench also contributed big time and, unlike the Lakers reserve, responded in the right way playing exceptionally well on both ends of the floor.
The main concern ahead of this series was the size advantage the Lakers have in favor of the Rockets, whose tallest player in the starting lineup is 6'7. But Rockets displayed incredible versatility on defense, and at often times Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee, and Dwight Howard didn't seem so physically imposing against much smaller Rockets squad.
In an interview after the game, James Harden was surprised many people questioned their ability to go up against the Lakers. He said they were prepared and showed their 'small-ball' system can work. The term 'toughness' is something that cannot be seen in the stat sheet, but it seemed Rockets came prepared to play hard for every possession.
I don't know why people keep saying we are small. You can be 7 feet tall, but if you don't have a heart, it doesn't matter. If you don't have a dog in you, it doesn't matter. We got guys that are able to switch and play different positions and guard different guys on the court. It doesn't matter how tall you are because if you have heart and you are a competitor, you can be out there on the court.
The next game is scheduled for Sunday, and the Lakers need to do some thinking and make proper adjustments. If the Rockets win the second game, tensions might increase because the Lakers' only goal is to make it to the NBA finals; everything less than that will be considered a failure. The Rocket's primary goal will be to make Lakers work hard on offense, and if they don't get outrebounded, they have a lot of chance to win this series.