I do not believe any basketball fan, student or scholarly enthusiast was expecting the defensive match-up that the Lakers showed the Houston Rockets in Game 2. A 1-3-1 half-court zone with Anthony Davis guarding James Harden up top the entire game. Running a zone defense used to be illegal in the NBA until relatively recently and being able to run a zone without the fear of being called for a technical foul has changed the game tremendously. With that being said, not very many centers who have ever played in the NBA could have pulled off the defensive match-up that Anthony Davis did against James Harden and come out with a win.
James Harden has revolutionized the side-step, step-back jump shot. Harden’s unique offensive style has really changed the game, probably the most that I have seen since when Manu Ginobli introduced the Euro-step to the NBA. Harden’s offensive style has proven to be so effective that every point guard in the NBA has basically cloned his game, the most evident case is Luka Doncic, the amazing young guard for the Dallas Mavericks. When Luka hit that game winning shot against the Clippers in the first round, he looked identical to James Harden. It is evident that Luka has studied the offensive game of James Harden, mimicked his style exactly and his game has drastically improved. James Harden’s dribble is so deceptive, with those one or two dribbles between the legs, to confuse the defender, no one can tell if Harden is going to drive into the paint or step back for a three.
In so many ways he is un-guardable.
Which is why it was so shocking to see Lakers center Anthony Davis guarding the best offensive point guard in the world, James Harden. The Lakers game plan was, “we are going to make James Harden have to drive into the paint, we cannot let him just hit step-back three pointers the entire game”. I think most people would have expected the opposite game plan, to allow Harden to shoot but try to collapse in the paint and contest his drive. However Anthony Davis up top obviously confused and shocked Harden, no one was expecting this match up, which was something Harden had probably not seen all season. A seven footer up top with his hand in his face all game, altering and deflecting his jump shots and passes. The Lakers gambled big time with this nontraditional defensive match-up and it paid off this time.
Dwight Howard did not even take a step out onto the court in Game 2, which might be the reason the Lakers won.
It seemed like LeBron James pulled a Dennis Rodman mind game on Russell Westbrook, who had an off night in game 2. I think LeBron was talking trash to him all game, got in his head a little. Russell tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, which could be seen in the first round when he walked out onto the court to yell at OKC players when he was not even playing in the game. Even with Westbrook having an off night and with Davis guarding Harden, the Lakers had to get really lucky to beat the Rockets in game 2. The Lakers cannot consistently shoot threes, yet in the first half they were on fire. Markieff Morris heated up like “The Microwave” Vinny Johnson off the bench with 16 points to help the Lakers to an early 20 point lead. However, when LeBron James goes to the bench, the Lakers are complete garbage on both sides of the court.
It was shocking, how fast the Rockets came back and took the lead while LeBron sat on the bench.
I have been saying it all year, that if the Lakers do not win the Finals, that the Lakers should not, I repeat should not sign Anthony Davis to a long term deal. He is too weak to post up inside, every time he catches the ball it is around the three-point line, which is why they lost game 1. If Anthony Davis cannot win with the greatest athlete on the planet, LeBron James, then who can he win with? Lakers Nation expects Davis to match LeBron James energy every game, if they both can average a double -double I think the Lakers will easily win the series.