Using some deductive reasoning, we learn a defense of Kenny Thomas, Matt Bullard and Jason Collier doesn't work so hot against Shaquille O'Neal.
Shaq Diesel destroyed the Rockets depleted front line, scoring 41 points on 17-23 shooting in just 31 minutes, as the Lakers blew open a close game in the third quarter and beat the Rockets 114-101 in LA.
The win drops the Rockets back to to .500 at 20-20.
Shaq was just too much, also grabbing 11 rebounds. Imagine if he had hit free throws: He was 7-18 from the charity stripe. This all comes one day after Antawn Jamison had his way inside to the tune of 43 points and 15 boards. Kelvin Cato is still out, as is Carlos Rogers.
Would have been nice if Hakeem Olajuwon had waited a few games before quitting the team.
When Shaq wasn't doing it, Kobe was. Kobe Bryant added 29 points and the duo was too strong for the Rockets.
Steve Francis had a big night, scoring 28 points, 8 boards and 7 assists. It was fantastic to see Francis taking it at Kobe at times. Kobe has always seemed to have his way defensively with Francis, but Stevie took it at him several times, especially early on. That matchup is one we'll be seeing for years. Francis also hit 4 threes.
After scoring 41 points against the Warriors, Mobley cooled off considerably. Sure he put up 18 points still, but it's amazing considering he was just 3-14 from the floor. He hit 12-13 free throws however, and credit his quick first step for getting him to the line.
Matt Bullard played well also, though he was saddled at times by having to guard Shaq (it wasn't pretty). Bull hit 4 triples in 7 attempts and finished with 15 points.
The surprise though was how well Dan Langhi played in garbage time. Dan scored a career-high 10 points on 3-6 shooting and 4-5 from the line... showed a nice first step and was aggressive. He even got his own Clutch BBS thread talking about how impressive he was.
Shandon Anderson added 10 points and 10 boards while Walt Williams knocked down 9 off the bench. KT added 7 in limited action (saddled with foul trouble guarding Shaq).
The Lakers sizzled from the floor (thanks to Shaq's 17-23), shooting almost 55% as a team to the Rockets 44%. The Lakers also dominated the boards with a 46-34 edge, including 14-7 on the offensive glass.
Behind Shaq, the Lakers tore off early, taking a 12-5 lead, but Walt Williams picked up where he left off against Golden State. Walt hit his first 3 shots, including a triple, and the Rockets started coming back.
Francis took the reigns from there. After Francis nailed a three, then blew by his man for a deuce, the Rockets led 28-23.
He finished with 12 points on 5-6 shooting in the quarter as the Rockets held a 30-26 advantage through one. Shaq had 12 for the Lakers.
Bullard was guarding Shaq to start the second and it showed. Shaq got a bucket and foul (missed the FT) and two possessions later went right around Bullard for a slam.
After Rider hit a three, the Rockets made sloppy inbounds pass out of bounds, then Shaq scored again (giving him 20 points on 10-13 from the field with over 9 minutes still to go in the first half) and the Lakers led 39-35.
The Lakers kept the heat on ... after Kobe missed an impossible shot, he got his own board and shot another tough hanging jumper, making this one. Lakers 48, Rockets 40.
The Rockets trailed 56-48 before Francis pulled up to nail a three, then the Rockets ran and found KT for a slam and it was down to 56-53. The Lakers scored the final 3 points of the half, making it 59-53 at halftime.
Shaq had 25 points at intermission while Kobe Bryant had 15. Francis finished with 15, but was just 1-8 from the floor in the second quarter. Cuttino Mobley had 11 and get this: 0-8 from the floor, 11-11 from the FT line for Cat.
The Rockets didn't die to start the third... when Mobley scored his 14th point but yet his first field goal of the game, and Francis followed that up with a sweet turnaround from 8-feet out, the Rockets trailed just 69-67.
That was it though. The flood gates opened in favor of the Lakers at that point.
LA tore off on a quick 12-2 run, capped by a Shaq jumper, to open an 81-69 lead and force a Rocket timeout.
Lakers kept pouring it on. After Horry nailed a deuce it was 89-73 Lakers. It was 91-76 through three. Shaq had 38 points and 9 boards (and imagine if he amde his FTs.... he was 6-16) while Kobe had 25.
With less than two minutes gone by in the fourth the Lakers led 96-77.
It just was a pain in the ass to watch from there...