Lakers come up short against Rockets without Anthony Davis – Daily News

March 16, 2023

HOUSTON — In the Lakers’ determination to replace Anthony Davis by committee, the committee underwhelmed.

What’s more, the team dropped a game against the Western Conference’s last-place squad in a stretch of the season when every loss hits twice as hard.

Wednesday night’s 114-110 road defeat to the Houston Rockets could haunt the Lakers in the weeks to come if they find themselves on the wrong end of a top-six playoff seed – or worse. Taking caution by resting their elite big man, the Lakers entered the night with only one true center, Wenyen Gabriel, and the void in the middle was glaring.

They were outscored 78-46 in the paint, 20-10 in second-chance points, and outrebounded by 15. It took a half for their defense, which began without any center at all, to find its footing – particularly against Kevin Porter Jr., who had a game-high 27 points.

In the end, it looked closer than it really was: The Lakers might have had a miracle opportunity to inbound for a tie with less than a second remaining if Austin Reaves, who scored a team-high 24 points, hadn’t missed one of his final free throws. But in reality, the Lakers were chasing the Rockets all night and shooting 37.8% overall and 11 for 44 from 3-point range didn’t help much.

In the loss, the Lakers maintained their 10-seed position, but their margin fell to just a half-game ahead of New Orleans and Utah just behind them. The Lakers also failed, for the second time in their last three games, to reach .500 for the first time this season – a mark that might signify battling uphill from a 2-10 start and out of a losing record, if only they could reach it.

The defeat is sure to keep pressure on the franchise, which rested Davis as part of a medical strategy to keep him from aggravating his right foot stress reaction. Davis called the situation “frustrating” on Tuesday, acknowledging that every game counts in a standings chase that has so far refused to provide much clarity for the nine Western Conference teams that are constantly swapping seats.

The Lakers have an open roster spot and have worked out a handful of big men throughout the season, but they haven’t signed anyone despite Davis’ management strategy and Mo Bamba’s ankle sprain. It suggests a lack of impact centers on the market, but Ham also added pregame: “You really have to be careful because you can add something that sorta throws your ecosystem out of whack, and you don’t want to do that either.”

The Lakers started with Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura both in the starting lineup, pledging to replace Davis “by committee” with a smaller lineup. But instead of the two forwards combining to replace Davis’ production, the Lakers’ early possessions looked more like they had no center at all.

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