Dictionary.com defines “passive voice” as follows: “One of the two “voices” of verbs (see also active voice). A verb is in the passive voice when the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb. For example, in “The ball was thrown by the pitcher,” the ball (the subject) receives the action of the verb, and was thrown is in the passive voice.”
In writing, they teach you to avoid using the passive voice. It’s less forceful and diverts your attention from the true subject the writer is trying capture. I will admit, I still use the passive voice more than I should, but I’m not a good writer, so that’s fine.
The Lakers are, however, a good basketball team. In Thursday’s 121-111 loss to the Rockets, the Lakers played an entire basketball game in the passive voice. They played with no force; they played in a manner where they diverted their action from the true object of focus. I actually don’t know if this is a good analogy. Again, though, I’m not a good writer. I hope you’ll keep reading.
The Rockets are ushering in a great experiment. Well, actually, I should correct that. In the lead up to the trade deadline, Rockets decided they should be more of themselves than ever before. They want to space the floor by any means necessary. Playing with a true big man (since traded Clint Capela) and a second non-shooter (Russell Westbrook), inhibited that.
So, their solution is to not play with a big man at all. Westbrook will be their big man — at least offensively. He’ll live in the paint; he’ll force his will on the opponents by relentlessly pursuing that piece of real estate under the basket we call the restricted area. He’ll do it possession after possession, and unless you put a player on him willing to scrap with him every minute he’s on the floor to stop him from getting there, his will shall win out. Them’s the rules.
The Lakers did not have a player willing to scrap with Russell Westbrook. Anthony Davis did a fine job of deterring Westbrook at times. LeBron James did a good job of challenging some of the shots once Westbrook was actually in the restricted area. The rest of the time, though, Westbrook ate. He ate like a starving man who’d just smoked out with Snoop Dog and then was told he could order anything off the menu at Momofuku. Alex Caruso was the appetizer. Kyle Kuzma was dinner.
They all just ceded space and Westbrook was like Pacman chomping away at the pellets in front of him. Forever moving towards the rim. Forever and ever. As I wrote in my game preview, the Lakers needed to learn from their last game vs. Russ and his new non-3’s, all drives game. Clearly, they did not.
The other way the Rockets have decided to be more like themselves than ever is in shooting as many 3’s as they can. With Westbrook abandoning that shot in favor of living in the paint, every other player should be parked around the arc waiting to shoot. And shoot they did. Not quite the 60 attempts from their previous game, but the Rockets’ 42 three-pointers was a lot. Their 19 makes was more than a lot. A 45.2% connect rate on that many 3’s is going to win you a lot of games. Against a middle of the pack three-point attempts team like the Lakers, it can be the big difference.
Houston was a massive +30 from behind the arc in a game they won by 10 points. Being +30 points in any area of the game is likely to get you a win. Even when James Harden only has 14 points. So, that’s what this game was. Westbrook destroyed and the Rockets shots fell.
Leaving it to that, though, doesn’t explain away the Lakers fault in this. In a game they needed to play with force in, they simply didn’t. They won the rebound battle by 1. They lost the FT battle, taking 2 fewer and making 4 fewer than Houston. They did not force turnovers. They did not control the pace of the game by posting up more, by playing bigger or varying their defensive approach. They did not dictate the terms of engagement. They tried to play their style within the Rockets’ framework and that didn’t work.
So, they lost. I can rattle off a bunch of stats here or give you more notes on this game, but I won’t. It’s my birthday so I’m taking the rest of the day to no longer worry about this game, as frustrating as it was and as much as it’s trying to linger in my head, I’m going to try. So, ya’ll have a good one. We’ll have more for you soon enough.