The NBA Western Conference final extends a hearty welcome to the Houston guards, who made a tardy entrance to the series in Tuesday's night's Game 2, having missed an opportunity to start along with everyone else in Saturday's Game 1.
For the Rockets, they arrived like cavalry, just in the nick of time. Lewis Lloyd, shot up to the consistency of Swiss cheese by Magic Johnson on Saturday, rallied to score 24 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and the Rockets beat the Lakers, 112-102.
Mitchell Wiggins, the other Rocket shooting guard, a phrase once considered a contradiction in terms, shot 7 for 9 and scored 14 points in his 21 minutes. For the series, he's 17 for 25, with 38 points in 47 minutes.
How long has be been shooting like that?
" 'Bout six years," Wiggins said, doubling over with laughter.
For Lloyd, especially, it was sort of a slow rally. He was a big part of the bumpy Rocket start that saw them blanked for the first 3:42. His first 20-footer only grazed the rim.
At least it caught iron. His second shot, an 8-footer, touched only air.
"I just shot it too hard," Lloyd said, grinning. "I just misjudged it. You have shots like that. I heard the crowd, they kind of laughed. But that's all in the game.
"What kind of outside shooter am I? It's according to the situation. If it's money time, than I'm at my best. I'd say I'm more of a scorer than a shooter. Mitchell Wiggins is a shooter."
Wiggins: "He didn't need to be encouraged to keep shooting. If he's off, he'll shoot to get on. If he's on, he'll shoot."
The only reason he got a chance to fire again Tuesday night was that he was faring better at the other end. Saturday, Johnson tapped him for 26 points and 18 assists. Rocket Coach Bill Fitch was not keen on a repeat.
Fitch: "That was an ugly first quarter of basketball. That's the type of quarter that a guy like Magic can take over, picking up the ball, driving, getting fouled. Lewis Lloyd did a tremendous job of containing Magic. It was go back and work on his defense or he'd have been out of there. Lewis' offense was so bad, if it hadn't been for his defense, I might have put him on the bench and lost him."
Lloyd is a bulky 6-5. He was a college forward drafted by Golden State, which cut him, after which the Rockets signed him as a free agent and made him a guard.
If an unorthodox one. He still takes a toes-on-the-floor set shot from 20 feet, which does not inspire quite the same dread as a Jerry West jumper, but some big ones fall. With the Lakers having cut a 12-point Houston lead to 92-90, the Rockets called time, and then, with the Forum crowd screaming, ran a play for. . .a Lloyd 20-footer?
That's what they wound up with, anyway, and he hit it.
"The way I was going there, the basket looked as big as the ocean," Lloyd said. "I couldn't miss. Were they conceding the outside shot? All game. All game."
Wiggins' rally is actually a recent one, bringing him back from Fitch's doghouse, where he spent last season after the Rockets acquired him from the Bulls. It took some time, but the Rockets needed an outside shooter.
"The Laker game plan is to let someone other than Ralph (Sampson) and Akeem (Olajuwon) beat them," Wiggins said. "That's a lot like our game plan. You'd rather have someone shoot an 18-footer with a hand in their face. But that means we have to hit the open jump shot."
They did. They won their first game here since Jan. 30, 1985, even if they did take several hammerings from the Lakers after that. What do those hammerings mean now?
"The first few times, you think, the Fabulous Forum, all the stars, showtime," Wiggins said. "We're out of that phase now. We're for real. We're legit. We have the greatest respect for the Laker organization, but we have to respect ourselves."