Lakers heed Anthony Davis’ defensive words: Five takeaways from win over Rockets

Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis (3) goes up for a basket against the Houston Rockets.
Anthony Davis puts up a shot during the Lakers’ 120-102 win over the Houston Rockets on Sunday.
(Carmen Mandato / Associated Press)

Here are five observations from the Lakers’ 120-102 win in Houston against the Rockets:

1. Anthony Davis’ harsh words about the Lakers’ defense on Thursday were a bit of a surprise, the Lakers star is usually more of a glass-half-full type of guy. But an uneven effort against the Spurs and some general inconsistencies in the early weeks of the year was enough to set off Davis.

Out of his frustrations, though, came the Lakers’ most dominant performance this year. The Lakers forced 21 turnovers with 13 steals and eight blocks while keeping the Rockets to just 12 three-point shots.

“It was holding myself accountable mainly, but also holding the team,” Davis said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who are really good defensively, and we know how good we can be. We know how good we want to be.”


The Houston Rockets wanted to measure themselves Sunday against the Lakers, and the defending champions responded with a dominating performance for a 120-102 win.

Jan. 10, 2021

This was a vision of it, the Lakers zipping around the court and turning the Rockets’ empty possessions into points on the other end.

“You know, this game as much as any throughout the year, was a Laker-basketball type of win,” coach Frank Vogel said. “Flying around defensively, getting stops without fouls, either forcing turnovers or forcing misses, and then flying on the break and getting out, you know, the deep advanced passes, it got us 32 fast-break points. So sort of an identity win.”

2. Even though the Lakers lost Thursday, Vogel loved what Davis had to say because he hoped the team would respond.

“To have your best player, one of your best players, when they’re upset, it’s not about the offensive end — which so many times that happens with one of your top guys, he’s not happy with their shots or something like that. But when one of your best players, your team captains, your leaders loses a game, and the first thing on his mind is we weren’t good enough defensively, that’s special,” Vogel said. “And that’s a big reason we did what we did last year, and have a great chance this year. So we talked about it the next day, we praised it, the fact that our group was edgy and angry after that loss, and our coaching staff the next morning was angry and edgy after that loss.

“We have a high standard set for ourselves, so I definitely welcome and encourage that.”

3. Talen Horton-Tucker scored 17 points and had four steals, his best game as a Laker.

“I feel like you can put me anywhere on the court. You can put me on any group that we have and I feel like I can get some things done and just help us win the game. Just trying to make winning plays on both ends,” Horton-Tucker said. “I feel like you can throw me anywhere. It’s really not a place that I just feel specifically comfortable yet cause I’m actually kinda being thrown in everywhere.”


LeBron James said he continues to be impressed with the Lakers’ second-year wing.

Highlights from the Lakers’ 120-102 victory over the Rockets on Jan. 10, 2021, in Houston.

“He just listens. He’s a sponge,” James said. “Whatever you say to him, he’s going to apply it. He’s going to accept, first, and then he’s going to apply it right away. There’s not that many young guys that can take something on the fly and then make it happen the very next play. You saw it tonight with his ability, obviously, to go seven-for-eight from the field, but also his rebounding, his assists, playmaking and then also having four steals to add on top of that. So, big-time game for him.”

4. After four games, Kentavious-Caldwell Pope returned and gave the Lakers a boost of energy, his floor-spacing and transition game making more of a difference than his seven points did.

“The level of acceleration that he plays at automatically ignites our team. We play at a different pace when he’s in the lineup and his defensive approach as well,” James said. “Being able to guard the other top perimeter player on the other side. And he’s a guy who’s been in our system. So, it’s just always great having him out there.”

Playing off the bench is different from what Wesley Matthews is used to, but the veteran guard is finding ways to be a valuable contributor for the Lakers.

Jan. 9, 2021

5. Eleven games into the season, the Lakers have the third-ranked defense. James has a clear goal for the team, though, and that’s to be the best in the NBA.


“Our goal is to be the No. 1 defensive team in the league,” James said. “And it’s going to take our film sessions, it’s going to take our shootarounds, it’s going to take the practices, when we do get an opportunity to get on the floor, and then the games to continue to work those habits. …We’re all getting accustomed to one another, getting down to our rotation. What we want to build, how we build out from the paint to the perimeter.

“But we want to be the best defensive team in the league and tonight was a good start to that.”