May 18, 2024

Even if Anthony Davis wasn’t forced to the Lakers’ bench in a green hoodie and golden baseball cap, the trends say it probably would’ve looked sort of like this in Houston anyways — at least early.

The Lakers, the worst first-quarter team in the NBA through their first seven games, weren’t any better Wednesday, another bad start leading to another road loss, this one to the Houston Rockets, 128-94.

Houston led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter — the sixth time the Lakers have been down by at least 10 during the opening 12 minutes. The Lakers have been outscored by 74 points in the first quarter, a number that’s created mountains the Lakers haven’t been able to consistently climb.

No player on the roster has a positive plus/minus rating in the first quarter.

The debacle in Houston comes after the Lakers reversed trends in the first quarter in Miami on Monday, opening the game by equaling the Heat’s force, focus and functionality.

Asked early Wednesday if he thought the Lakers had found the level they need to open games, LeBron James said it was too early to declare any pages had been turned.

“Yeah, but I mean, that’s that game. So how do we continue with that?” he said at shootaround Wednesday. “That’s that game. Like I said postgame, you have to compete against [Miami], you have to play hard or they will embarrass you. How do we match that or bottle that energy or that intensity and bring it into the next couple road games left on this trip?”

Turns out that when the Lakers didn’t compete against Houston, the Rockets gladly embraced the opportunity to embarrass them.

Maybe they were deflated with the news that Davis would be unable to play, his hip injury from Monday’s loss in Miami giving him enough trouble that the Lakers ruled him out shortly before Wednesday’s game. Without Davis and Jaxson Hayes, who missed his second-straight game with an ankle injury, the Lakers frontcourt was again thin.

Rui Hachimura, who missed the Lakers’ last four games, did return from a concussion, scoring 24 points in 25 minutes off the bench. Beyond the shot making, he was one of the few Lakers to move without the ball, getting easy baskets by cutting and rolling to the rim hard.

D’Angelo Russell scored 22 and LeBron James had 18, but the Lakers’ miserable shooting and indifferent defense kept Wednesday’s game from ever being competitive.

Jalen Green scored 28, Alperen Sengun had 19 and the Rockets outscored the Lakers 24-3 on the offensive glass. Houston made 54.8% from the field and 42.4% from three.

The Lakers now begin the in-season tournament Friday in Phoenix against the Suns, who got Bradley Beal on the court for the first time this season on Wednesday against the Bulls.

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