LeBron James paid the Rockets a pretty big compliment after Houston’s small lineup bulldozed the bigger Lakers 112-97 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on Friday night.
“It’s kind of like in the early 2000s when you had the St. Louis Rams, The Greatest Show on Turf,” James said after the Lakers loss. “People always used to say how they would scout them and scout them and scout them, but until you got on the field and you saw Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk and (Az-Zahir) Hakim and all those guys. And you were like, ‘OK, we need to play them again,’ because there’s no way you can simulate that speed. So, getting out on the floor and having a Game 1 gives you a good feel for it.”
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Those high-powered Rams teams played in two Super Bowls in three years, winning one championship.
The Rockets, who don’t use a player taller than 6-foot-8, got plenty of production from their smaller guys, much like those Rams teams. James Harden led the way with 36 points, while Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon had 24 and 23, respectively.
P.J. Tucker scored just six points, but he had a team-best plus-minus of plus 19, all while the 6-5 Tucker had to fight down low with Anthony Davis, James and Dwight Howard.
“People keep saying we’re small, but if you don’t have heart, it doesn’t matter,” Harden said after the win. “If you don’t have dog in you, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how tall you are if you have heart and you’re a competitor.”
James thinks his team will be in much better shape for Game 2 on Sunday night after getting a chance to see that St. Louis Rams-type speed.
“They play with a lot of speed obviously starting with the head of the snake in Russ,” James said. “They play with a lot of speed both offensively and defensively. You can see it on film but we got a feel for their speed tonight and we should be fully aware of that for Game 2.”