The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets are two franchises headed in opposite directions. While some thought Houston’s microball attack would be enough to upset LA in last season’s playoffs in the bubble, the Lakers easily won that series in five games on their way to a championship. The Lakers remain the favorites to go back-to-back at the start of the new season, while Houston is drowning in drama stemming from James Harden’s trade request.
The difference between these two teams was plain to see on Tuesday night as the Lakers walked away with a 117-100 victory.
LA was already up 21 points at the end of the first quarter. That’s when the fun really started. As Markieff Morris passed to LeBron James in the corner in the second quarter, James shot the three-pointer and turned around to stare at his bench as the ball swished through the net.
We have seen Stephen Curry pull off this move so many times before, but that wasn’t James’ motivation. He explained what actually compelled him to do it after the game.
James said teammate Dennis Schroder “bet” him on the sideline that he would miss the shot as he was taking it. “A bet isn’t official until you look a man in the eye,” James said. That’s what led to one of the great highlights of this young season so far.
A few takeaways here:
- Never bet against LeBron James. I say this as someone who doubted the Lakers’ championship aspirations throughout last season and ended up looking very stupid.
- LeBron had so much to lose by taking the bet. Imagine if he misses the shot — you know he’s getting turned into the meme. We’ll be seeing that Nick Young GIF forever. People love to laugh at LeBron’s expense. It was a daring thing to do, but he nailed it.
- Talking trash to your own teammate as he’s shooting? In this case, that counts as a sign of amazing chemistry. The Lakers seem to really like each other. Winning a championship has that effect on an organization.
Meanwhile, the Rockets’ season feels like it’s headed down the toilet. Harden doubled-down on his trade request after the game, while teammate John Wall called out (hmm, wonder who?) anyone that would write off the season after nine games.
John Wall: "If we can all get on the same page, we can be something good here. We can't dwell down on it because it's only been 9 games. Come on, man. You're going to jump off the cliff off of 9 games? There's a lot of basketball still to be played." #Rockets— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) January 13, 2021
The good times keep rolling for LeBron and the Lakers. Harden can’t get out of Houston soon enough. It doesn’t feel like we’re getting another playoff series between these teams any time soon.