Scouting Report: Lakers vs. Rockets

Updated: April 16, 2004, 6:32 PM ET
By Brian James | Special to ESPN Insider
Lakers' plus-minus breakdown | Rockets' plus-minus breakdown

Brian James, a former assistant coach with the Pistons, Raptors and Wizards, spent the 2003-04 season scouting for the SuperSonics. Insider tapped his NBA expertise to break down each playoff series.

The last time the Knicks made the NBA Finals, they entered the playoffs as the eighth seed, and their coach was Jeff Van Gundy. Can he repeat the magic in Houston? In time, but the road is uphill and very steep this postseason.

Houston is in the playoffs for the first time in five seasons and has had a great season, but here comes the team people can't get enough of, the L.A. Lakers. Talk about theatrics -- a roster of future Hall of Famers in L.A., and the much heralded Shaq-Yao matchup.

Coach Phil Jackson has 10 championship rings as a player and coach, and this season has been as challenging as any of them. The key to the Lakers has been their ball movement. When they have a high number of assists, their record is very good. In short, they use their offense to control the tempo of the game. When they take quick shots, they cannot get back. Moving the basketball develops rhythm in their triangle offense and their half court power game. This is also why they are fourth in points and field-goal percentage. When L.A. wins the first quarter, look out. Most nights they don't get caught.