The Los Angeles Lakers used a strong second-half rally to secure a 112-102 win over the Houston Rockets to take a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference Semi-finals.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 62 points for the second game in a row, while Rajon Rondo delivered another strong performance off the bench with 21 points and nine assists.
James Harden filled it up for the Rockets with 33 points nine rebounds, and nine assists, while Russell Westbrook added 30 points on the night.
Here are the key takeaways from Game 3:
King James sets the tone
LeBron James was a man on a mission in Game 3, exploding for 29 first-half points on an efficient 10-of-14 from the field.
As both teams freely traded buckets in the opening half, James cooly knocked down jumpshot after jumpshot and was aggressively getting his way to the rim, capping off the opening 24 minutes with this two-handed hammer.
LeBron James caps his 29-point 1st half with the two-handed hammer!- NBA (@NBA) September 9, 2020
Halftime in Game 3:@Lakers 61@HoustonRockets 64#NBAPlayoffs on TNT pic.twitter.com/nFanp7j1el
He finished with 36 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and four blocks, shooting 12-of-23 from the field and 4-of-9 from the 3-point line, making it his 88th career playoff game with at least 30 points, five rebounds, and five assists, equalling the combined totals of Michael Jordan (51) and Kobe Bryant (37).
With the win, LeBron also climbed to outright first on the NBA's all-time list for most playoff wins (162), leaving Derek Fisher in second (161).
"It says that I've played with a lot of great teams," James said.
"It says that I've played with a lot of great teammates and some great coaches. Either in Cleveland, in Miami and now here in Los Angeles, you don't get those wins without your teammates and the coaching staff that prepares and do all the preparation that's behind the scenes ... It doesn't happen without the supporting cast. It's why I'm able to sit here with this achievement."
Anthony Davis went to work inside, scoring 26 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists as he continually put the Rockets' smaller defenders under pressure.
Lakers turn the screws on defence
After trailing 64-61 at the half, the Lakers emerged with a renewed sense of urgency on the defensive end, holding the Rockets to just 38 second-half points.
Harden and Westbrook combined for 38 of the team's 64 points at the half, with Harden leading the way with 21 on 8-of-16 shooting. Coming out of the break, the Lakers zeroed in on the league's leading scorer, sending a swath of double teams and traps in his direction, which forced the ball out of his hands.
He managed just 12 points the rest of the way on six field-goal attempts.
"We knew in the first half going into the half-time that we didn't play our best defensively," James said post-game.
Bron putting on a block party! ❌ pic.twitter.com/KUGSfPmwV7- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) September 9, 2020
"We allowed them to get into the lane, without contest, we allowed them to hit some threes without contest, our rotations were slow, so when we went into the locker room we watched some film and we had a conversation right away on what we can do in the second half to get better and be better, and we was able to transfer that into the second half."
Rondo leads bench unit
The legend of 'Playoff Rondo' continues to amaze, with the 34-year-old delivering another impressive performance in Game 3.
He poured in 21 points (12 in the fourth quarter) and nine assists on 8-of-11 shooting and 3-of-5 from the 3-point line, giving the Lakers a huge boost in the fourth quarter.
Rajon Rondo last 2 games:- StatMuse (@statmuse) September 9, 2020
10 PTS | 9 AST | 5 STL | W
21 PTS (11 in 4Q) | 9 AST | W
The Lakers have outscored the Rockets by 35 points when Rajon Rondo is on the floor. pic.twitter.com/19HESlv7YL
Rondo scored or assisted on 23 of the Lakers' 30 points in the final frame, coming up huge in the crucial 17-5 run to give them some breathing room.
He buried back-to-back 3-pointers and then got a steal for a quick layup, before finding Alex Caruso for a 3-pointer to put the Lakers up 10.
Rondo with 8 quick PTS in the 4th and LAL goes up 10!@Lakers 97@HoustonRockets 87#NBAPlayoffs on TNT pic.twitter.com/L0jtwHhXoN- NBA (@NBA) September 9, 2020
The Lakers bench outscored the Rockets reserves 42-16 on the night, with Kyle Kuzma adding 14 points, while Jeff Green accounted for all 16 of the Rockets' bench points.
The Rockets will look to level the series when the two teams meet in less than 48 hours, with Game 4 set to tip-off Thursday, September 10 at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBA League Pass.
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