Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Ring Night season opener against Houston, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest Odom and Gasol
Rockets: Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola and Yao Ming*
*Ming has been placed on a 24-minute limit to protect a foot injury that kept him out of the 2009-10 season.
Prior to the tip, the Lakers players went through a touching ceremony in which each of the nine players earning the 2010 ring took the liberty of introducing his next teammate. Phil Jackson opened the process after collecting his ring from NBA Commissioner David Stern, and then said a few words about Luke Walton. He then introduced Lamar Odom in a line that continued as follows: Artest-Bynum-Gasol-Vujacic-Brown-Fisher-Kobe. Odom provided one of the most poignant intros when talking about how he and Artest had been friends since the age of 12, and how special it was for two kids from
10:10 After opening easy buckets from Gasol and Odom, Artest proved that his successful offensive preseason wasn’t a fluke by nailing his first three-point attempt of the season to put L.A. up 7-2 early. Moments later, however, Odom was whistled for his second personal foul, forcing Phil Jackson to prove a pre-game worry true by having to put rookie Derrick Caracter into early duty.
5:42 While Artest added his second three plus a Yao goaltend to get eight quick points, the Rockets continued a hot shooting start of their own when Kevin Martin joined backcourt mate Aaron Brooks with two three-pointers, Houston taking a 20-16 lead.
2:59 L.A.’s coaching staff praised how well Steve Blake had fit in throughout the preseason, and we got an early example of why when he simply made two quick, ideal passes on his first offensive possession, ultimately resulting in an easy dunk for Gasol that brought L.A. within six at 26-20. After a Martin free throw, Gasol then stuck a reverse layup to get to 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
0:00 A few more preseason carryovers early: Shannon Brown listened to his coaches and shot the ball when open (swish) after checking in; and Gasol, so eager to get the preseason over with, added a bucket to lead the Lakers with 12 points. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Martin had 12 and Brooks 15 thanks to a combined 5-of-7 from three, opening a 33-26 lead for the road team at quarter’s end.
8:25 The Lakers won the 2010 championship thanks in part to terrific defense throughout the playoffs and particularly late in the Finals, and well, the first 16 minutes of 2010-11 were quite a departure. The Rockets opened up making 15-of-29 shots from the field, including 4-of-5 from sub Chase Budinger, whose reverse dunk plus the harm put the Rockets up 44-34.
5:21 While L.A. clearly missed Andrew Bynum’s defensive presence inside, we were reminded of how this team won two straight championships, as the guy who doesn’t even start when Bynum’s healthy grabbed three rebounds in one minute and converted two layups to bring L.A. within five at 48-44.
0:42.0 Perhaps more important than it should have been was Bryant’s four-point play in response to Brooks’s fourth three-pointer, which came courtesy of an and-1 layup around Martin plus Martin’s technical technical foul. The half ended in kind, with Houston riding its six three-pointers and near 50-percent shooting towards a 62-51 lead.
8:00 Bryant began to heat up a bit offensively, scoring six of L.A.’s eight points to open the quarter, but the Lakers were unable to cut into Houston’s lead (72-61) as the Rockets continued to find and knock down good shots. The typical third quarter defensive energy from the Lakers wasn’t quite there at that point…
4:18 Things picked up a bit thanks to Gasol, who got to 21 points with a quick nine that cut Houston’s lead to seven. The Spaniard, however, was then whistled for his fourth foul while in his mind cleanly blocking Brad Miller, bringing Theo Ratliff onto the floor, quite a drop off offensively for L.A. Meanwhile, Artest continued to struggle considerably on offense, missing his 11th straight shot after a 3-of-4 start.
0:26.0 L.A. had gotten exactly six points from its bench in the first three quarters … until Blake matched that total within 30 seconds, nailing back-to-back corner threes to cut Houston’s lead to five (82-77) heading into the fourth.
9:23 A nice stretch for L.A. concluded with Matt Barnes’ first yell of approval from STAPLES after he grabbed an offensive board and drew a foul on the put-back attempt, then tying the game at 86 from the stripe.
7:44 The terrific stretch of basketball from L.A.’s 3 B’s (Brown, Blake and Barnes) plus Odom and Gasol continued as Brown converted a transition layup and then an end-of-clock three before 1-of-2 Blake free throws capped a 21-4 Lakers run, suddenly turning a once 15-point deficit into a six-point lead at 92-86.
5:29 Well, that was fast. Brown, whom we talked about continually in the preseason because he simply listened to what L.A.’s coaches said over and over about taking the open shots he had instead of forcing things elsewhere, saw things pay off in a big way. He nailed four straight triples across a five-minute stretch to push the lead up to eight.
1:07 The Rockets certainly didn’t run away, however, during L.A.’s run, fighting back to cut the lead to a single point behind a Scola put-back layup and Brooks driving layup after Bryant had converted an and-1.
0:18.8 Blake couldn’t have endeared himself much better to Lakers fans after nailing a clutch three in the final seconds to put L.A. up 112-110, but Houston had a last chance to tie after Scola’s attempt in the paint went out of bounds off Odom. With Brooks getting the ball along the baseline, Blake forced him into Odom’s long arms, resulting in a game-ended block to send L.A. to victory.
We’ll be back with the postgame report soon, while the Lakers will next play at Phoenix on Friday night.