Rockets-Lakers Game 4: Three Keys to Victory

Rockets star James Harden must make shots if the Rockets are going to beat the Lakers.
Rockets star James Harden must make shots if the Rockets are going to beat the Lakers. Photo by Eric Sauseda
The Lakers have managed to reassert themselves in Games 2 and 3 after a rather dominant win for the Rockets in Game 1 of this Western Conference semifinal. Game 4 isn't exactly a must-win, but going down in a 3-1 hole to Los Angeles would leave this series as good as done.

If they are going to have a chance, they will need big games from both of their stars in the backcourt. They've gotten ups and downs from both, but James Harden and Russell Westrbook need to perform at a high level together on the floor to even up the series.

But, there is more to it than just the dynamic backcourt duo. Here are three keys to a win in game four.

Energy start to finish.

No one can question the Rockets' hustle. For a team with a player like Harden, who is more finesse than power, this is a group that has real grit and determination. The problem is keeping that intensity for a full four quarters. When they have struggled, their energy waned in key moments. That cannot happen against a team as good as the Lakers. To beat LeBron James, Anthony Davis and company, the Rockets will have to bring it from the jump ball to the closing buzzer.

Close out strong.

One of the most impressive elements of the Rockets' win in Game 1 was how they closed out every quarter on a run. The best teams have a knack for locking it down and making big plays as the clock is ticking down. In  Games 2 and 3, that mentality was lacking. In Game 4, the Rockets need to treat the end to every quarter like their playoff lives depended on it. In fact, they might.

Make shots.

It's the simplest and most confounding part of basketball, putting the ball in that hoop. As great as the Rockets have been this postseason defensively, they are still a team driven by their offense. They can score with anyone when they are hitting baskets. That is especially true down the stretch of games when so much is on the line. Making baskets. It sounds easy. The Rockets better make it look easy in Game 4 if they want to get back into this series.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke