Lakers 109, Rockets 101: Running Diary

60027130Lakers – Rockets Gameday Page
We took a look at the Lakers – Rockets contest in Houston while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to get back in the win column after the previous night’s loss in Oklahoma City.

Lakers: Andrew Bynum (Achilles) Luke Walton (back)
Rockets: Kevin Martin (shoulder) Shane Battier (knee)

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Rockets: Aaron Brooks, Jermaine Taylor, Trevor Ariza, Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes

Rockets Missing Key Players
Houston enters the game without starting shooting guard Kevin Martin due to a left shoulder strain and is also without Shane Battier due to a torn MCL. Furthermore, reserve bigs Jared Jeffries and David Anderson are out as well. The Lakers continue to play without Andrew Bynum (Achilles) and Luke Walton (back) for at least a few more games.

60027139First Quarter
9:30 The good news for Rockets’ rookie Jermaine Taylor: he got his first ever NBA start in the absence of Kevin Martin. The bad news: he had to guard Kobe Bryant. Kobe first drew his foul on the baseline, then in the same possession pulled up easily for a swished jumper that made it 9-5 Lakers. The other early story was how easily L.A. was scoring in the paint, with Gasol and Odom going 3-for-3 against the smallish Rockets’ front line.

5:15 Craig Hodges … Steve Kerr … Aaron Brooks? Just about the only way Houston was going to stick around with the Lakers, who were effectively scoring in the paint, was to nail a bevy of 3-pointers like Hodges or Kerr back in their Chicago days. Among the league’s best bombers this season has been Brooks, who has no conscious when it comes to launching triples, and the diminutive guard nailed two of Houston’s three early on to put Houston up 19-16.

0:49.7 Conceding 34 points in their first quarter after a big loss (in Oklahoma City) certainly wasn’t the response L.A.’s coaches or players were looking for, but that they did as back-to-back hoops from Luis Scola put the Rockets up nine. Jordan Farmar managed a baseline J to cut the lead to 34-27 after one. On the bright side, there’s a Potbelly sandwich shop next to the team hotel in Houston. Mmmm.

Second Quarter
6:42 After stealing the ball from rookie Jordan Hill on defense, DJ Mbenga got the ball on the block at the other end and turned Hill around for a pretty turnaround shot off glass. CC was playing well enough to allow Gasol to continue to rest on L.A.’s bench, and his bucket put the Lakers back in front, 42-41. Congo Cash, folks.

0:28.6 Remember L.A.’s defense from the second half in San Antonio on Wednesday? It came out again in the second quarter here as L.A. reeled off a 20-0 run, failing to score from the 6:10 mark on (repeat: 20-0 run). Fisher’s third triple of the half in as many attempts got him to 13 points, second only to Gasol’s 15. Bryant, meanwhile, was on triple-double watch with 10 points, eight boards and six assists.

0:13.5 Mercifully, Luis Scola hit a jumper to end a 6-minute scoreless streak that mirrored Screech Power’s record with girls until Violet (the future Donna Martin, of course) came along. The Rockets managed just 11 points in the quarter on 26 percent shooting, while L.A. nailed 60 percent of its attempts in the quarter. Central to the defensive burst for the Lakers was Ron Artest, much like during that Spurs game.

60027115Third Quarter
10:21 The two giant pieces of sandpaper otherwise known as Gasol’s hands snagged a tough pass out of the air from Fisher, turned with the ball and lofted it of glass to get the Spaniard to 19 points, his fourth straight field goal make (hadn’t missed since the first quarter).

6:29 As Houston tried to claw its way back into the game, Artest went down with an apparent left ankle tweak while racing for a loose ball with former Laker Ariza. Fortunately, after about 20 seconds on the ground, Artest got up and walked it off, remaining on the floor for L.A. Good thing, too, since his improved foot speed has been crucial for both him and the Lakers on defense.

0:37.0 After a pretty pull-up jumper from 18 feet after multiple cross overs from Gasol (he’s playing center, by the way), Shannon Brown nailed a 3-pointer to push L.A.’s lead to 20 at 87-67, its biggest margin of the game. Pau would then add two free throws to get to a team-high 25 points.

Fourth Quarter
6:29 With L.A. holding Houston at bay relatively easily, the more interesting story line was whether or not Kobe would get his triple-double. He got to 17 points with 10 rebounds and nine assists early in the fourth, looking for dime No. 10 with L.A. leading 96-81.

5:29 Houston had nine male cheerleaders/dancers perform during a time out (FYI). In other news, Kobe went to the bench just one dime shy of the TD for the second time this season (see postgame numbers for more on that).

1:13 The Rockets were plucky enough to force Gasol off the bench and back into the contest (though not Kobe), allowing the All-Star to reach 30 points for the first time this season on an and-1 dunk. He nailed 11-of-17 from the field (including 8-of-10 after the first) and 8-of-9 free throws in an impressive effort.

The game would end moments later with L.A. winning 109-101, its second win on the 5-game road trip that continues in New Orleans on Monday and concludes in Atlanta on Wednesday. Until then, your numbers:

1 Assist by which Kobe Bryant missed a triple-double with his 17-point, 10-rebound, 9-assist performance, just like when he went for 27, 16 and 9 in Toronto on Jan. 24. Bryant’s last triple-double came against the Clippers on Jan. 21, 2009, when he posted 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, just two games after another triple-double featuring 28, 13 and 11 against Orlando.

3 Triples without a miss in 21 minutes for Derek Fisher, who scored 15 points on 6-of-8 eight shooting overall in one of his better offensive games of late.

11 Margin of L.A.’s edge on the glass. The Lakers were led by Lamar Odom’s 13 boards and 10 from Bryant.

30 Season high in points for Pau Gasol on 11-of-17 shooting, including 8-of-10 after the first quarter. The Spaniard added eight rebounds, four blocks and two assists in his first game against Houston this season.

57.5 L.A.’s outstanding shooting percentage on the evening.