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Rajon Rondo’s return doesn’t provide Lakers with boost in loss to Rockets

Lakers guard Rajon Rondo shoots during Friday's Game 1 playoff loss to the Houston Rockets.
(Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

It had been almost six months since he played in an NBA game when the Lakers called upon Rajon Rondo to provide them with a much-needed lift in their second-round playoff series opener against the guard-oriented Houston Rockets.

At best, Rondo had an uneven outing Friday night, his game good at times and a struggle at others, which mirrored how the Lakers performed against a more energized Rockets team coming off a seven-game first-round series against Oklahoma City that came down to the last few seconds.

In 25 minutes, some of it garbage time in the fourth quarter when the Lakers had no chance of winning, Rondo produced eight points, three rebounds, four assists, two steals and one blocked shot.

But he missed six of nine shots during the Lakers’ uninspiring 112-97 loss to the Rockets at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla. He also had four turnovers and was a minus-10 in the plus-minus category.

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The Lakers struggle to break free from the Houston Rockets’ stifling defense in a 112-97 loss in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Friday.

“He looked about his normal self,” fellow reserve Alex Caruso said. “Maybe he missed a layup or a shot that he normally makes and maybe that’s a little timing and just getting used to playing the game again. But Rondo is a guy who is mentally locked in whenever he steps on the floor, so I thought he looked pretty good conditioning-wise.”

The Lakers made just 42% of their shots and an awful 28.9% of their three-pointers. They turned the ball over 15 times and had just one player, center JaVale McGee (plus-five), who had a positive plus-minus number, and he played just 13 minutes against Houston’s small lineup.

Rondo entered the game with 4 minutes 53 seconds left in the first quarter, his first time playing since March 10, the day before the NBA was shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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He missed his first shot and turned the ball over on his next possession, the rust showing in his game.

But Rondo stayed the course, hitting Caruso for an assist and knocking down a three-pointer later in the quarter.

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Highlights from the Lakers’ loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday.

Rondo had another moment in which his jumper tied the score at 52 in the second quarter and his three-pointer pulled the Lakers to within 87-82 in a fourth quarter that eventually got away from them.

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When the Lakers got to the bubble in July for the restart of the season, Rondo broke his right thumb and had surgery.

When he came back for Game 4 of the first round against Portland, Rondo was unable to play because of back spasms, which also kept him out of the close-out Game 5.

“He was good for us,” guard Danny Green said. “He’s another floor general. He’s got to get his legs back under him, his wind, his rhythm, his chemistry. He’s one of those type of guys that will make a risky pass. Against a team like this, you can’t do that. But he shot confidently. He shot well for us. We’re going to need him to continue to do that, continue to be a floor general and stay positive. I thought he did very well for his first game back. He hasn’t played in six months.”

Coach Frank Vogel said assistant Jason Kidd didn’t attend the game because of back spasms.

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Turner reported from Los Angeles.


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