NBA Playoffs: Grumpy Lakers will be ready tonight
LOS ANGELES ó The Los Angeles Lakers are grumpy for letting a big chance get away from them in Texas.
The Houston Rockets are loose and having a good time, even if they don’t have Yao Ming.
Come tonight, one of them is going to have a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.
The top-seeded Lakers no doubt figured that they would have a chance to close out the Rockets in Game 5 at Staples Center. But that was before the Rockets embarrassed Los Angeles 99-87 on Sunday, tying the series and picking up their pace a day after finding out that the 7-foot-6 Yao had a stress fracture in his left foot.
“Yeah, we had a great opportunity,” Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant said. “I’ve been on teams who have made this dumb mistake before. It’s important for my guys to stay up and get ready to play and understand that come Tuesday we’re going to face a really hungry Rockets team that believes they can win this series.”
The series is guaranteed to go back to Houston for Game 6 on Thursday night.
“We could’ve had a huge advantage, put ourselves in a great position to finish the series off tomorrow, but we didn’t and we own up to it,” center Pau Gasol said. “That’s why we’re going to come out tomorrow and show what we’re made of.”
The Lakers could be without forward Lamar Odom. He was listed as questionable for Tuesday night’s game after an MRI and CT scan showed he has a bruised lower back. He was hurt Sunday when he drove into the lane and collided with Shane Battier, landing hard on the court.
The Rockets would love to be the ones going back to Houston with the series lead.
They were in a good mood after watching film following their arrival in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon.
“We have a free mentality,” said Battier, who outplayed Bryant in Sunday’s wipeout. “Every shot that everyone takes is a free shot. If it goes in, great. If not, we tried. We have nothing to lose. No one expected much out of us. We expect an effort out of us, but we’re going to take our shots, play hard and take our chances.”
The Rockets are in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1997. The Lakers are trying to get back to the NBA finals a year after losing to Boston in six games.
Bryant said the Lakers’ mood Monday was “grumpy, a little quiet,” but that they will just have to deal with the disappointment of the wire-to-wire rout, when the smaller Rockets’ lineup took advantage of Los Angeles’ defensive lapses.
“You can’t get it back. You’ve just got to move forward and get ready for the next one,” he said.
The Rockets stunned the Lakers ó and most everyone else ó by racing to a 29-16 lead in the first quarter. They never trailed and led by as many as 29 points before L.A. made it respectable.
“We didn’t understand the type of energy Houston was going to come with,” Bryant said. “We didn’t have that type of energy.”
It wasn’t a case of the Lakers taking the Rockets lightly without Yao, Bryant said.
“Naw, man they just kicked our (rear),” he said.