Rockets Push Lakers to Game 7

Perhaps it isn't that much of a surprise that the Lakers will host a plucky Rockets team in a Game 7 on Sunday. But how they arrived there just might be: L.A. fell behind 17-1 to start Game 6, and never recovered en route to a 95-80 loss in Houston.

It was quite a turnaround from the Lakers' 40-point home win over the Rockets in Game 5, and it was honestly astonishing to see the team exhibit the same lack of effort that it did when falling behind by 27 points to this same Houston team in Game 4.

Luis Scola dominated the larger front line of the Lakers, especially in the first quarter. Scola abused Andrew Bynum and anyone else that L.A. threw at him for 14 points in the opening period, while helping his team open the game with a 21-3 run that would ultimately prove to be the difference.

The Lakers never led in this one, which was reminiscent of the team's effort in Game 4. Throughout their 65-win regular season, L.A. never trailed from wire to wire, and always managed to hold a lead at some point in each game. For the second time in three games against this Rockets team, however, that hasn't been the case.

Lamar Odom came off the bench for the second straight game, and played well with eight points and 14 rebounds in 29 minutes of action. The same cannot be said for Bynum, who got the start but didn't manage to score in 19 minutes against an undersized Rockets team. Bynum was 0-3 from the field, but did haul in seven rebounds.

Phil Jackson finally seemed to realize that Jordan Farmar may be a better option in this series than Derek Fisher is, especially as a counter to the unique skill set of Aaron Brooks. Brooks led the Rockets with 26 points, but Farmar got as many minutes as Fisher (21 apiece), and shot the ball much better than his veteran teammate. While Fisher was just 1-7 from the field and 0-5 from three-point land, Farmar shot 5-10 and hit three of his five three-point attempts.

While Farmar is quicker than Fisher, he didn't really have much success containing Brooks. Farmar tends to get stuck to the solid screens that the Rockets set, so even though he may be able to stay in front of Brooks off the dribble, in the screen and roll situation he's just as useless as Fisher is.

After the Lakers made a run in the third quarter to cut Houston's lead to two, the Rockets closed the period with a nice run of their own to take a nine-point advantage into the fourth. The Lakers didn't bother to challenge once they got there, however, and allowed Houston to put them away rather easily, to force a Game 7 on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.

The Lakers are certainly capable of beating this Rockets team, as they've shown three times over the course of this series. But they need to bring maximum effort on both ends of the floor to do so, and for some reason in Game 6, that effort simply wasn't there.

L.A.'s players, coaches, and fans can accept a loss to a better team -- that's what the NBA is all about. But they cannot and will not accept a loss to an inferior team that out-worked and out-hustled them on both ends of the floor for 48 minutes. And if the Lakers don't bring maximum effort to Game 7 on Sunday, everyone will likely to see a very anti-climactic end to L.A.'s aspirations of getting back to the Finals.

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