NBA: Lakers’ big men dwarf Rockets
By DAVID LEON MOORE
LOS ANGELES - In defense of themselves, the Los Angeles Lakers played defense.
And played with toughness.
And played big.
When all that talent plays like that, the Lakers are hard to beat, as the Houston Rockets found out Sunday when they were humbled 89-70 in the deciding Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
The Lakers, whose effort, toughness and heart were questioned during a series many had considered a cakewalk with Houston center Yao Ming injured, will host the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western finals Tuesday.
“We knew what we had to do,” the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant said. ”We’re harder on ourselves than anybody writing stuff about us.”
When Yao was lost after a foot injury in Game 3, the Rockets rallied behind forward Luis Scola, point guard Aaron Brooks and role players playing big roles. In particular, gritty forwards - Scola, Chuck Hayes and Carl Landry - gave fits to Lakers big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
On Sunday, though, size mattered. Gasol had a huge day, with game highs in points (21), rebounds (18) and blocked shots (three). Bynum, all but invisible except for a 14-point sighting in Game 5, was again a factor (14 points, six rebounds, two blocks).
“We learned in this series that if we play hard every night, especially on the defensive end, we have a chance to win the next round and hopefully win a championship,” Gasol said.
Not if Denver has a say. ”We’re going to ... try to win the hustle game and try to be a little physical and see what happens,” Carmelo Anthony said.