The last time L.A. took the STAPLES Center floor in a game that counted, they came back from a 13-point second half deficit to beat the Boston Celtics and secure the franchise’s 16th NBA title.
Fast forward to Ring Night on Tuesday in a game that meant next to nothing in comparison yet retained some tangible energy, as the Lakers fell behind by as many as 15 points in the second half before rallying to secure a 112-110 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Pau Gasol led all scorers with 29 points and 11 rebounds and Kobe Bryant added 27 points and seven assists, while reserves Steve Blake and Shannon Brown erupted to nail a combined 7-of-7 combined three-pointers in the second half to turn the game on its head.
“We just didn’t seem to find traction until Shannon and Steve got in the ballgame and changed the texture of (it),” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “It was a great effort by those two. They gave us a big rally.”
Blake, playing in his first game as a Laker, started a game-changing 21-4 run from the final minute of the third into the fourth quarter with back-to-back threes, then caused the STAPLES Center crowd to erupt by draining a game-winning three-pointer from Bryant’s trusting feed with 18.8 seconds to play.
Blake then hounded Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks into Lamar Odom’s waiting arms with 2.4 seconds left as the Rockets, down 112-110, squandered a final chance to tie. Brown’s contribution came primarily in the first six minutes of the fourth, when he nailed four consecutive three-pointers from various spots on the floor for 12 of his 16 final period points.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do coming off the bench,” said Brown, who worked hard on his shot throughout the summer. “It’s our job to come out there and keep pushing.”
Meanwhile on defense, the Lakers held Houston to 34.9 percent shooting in the second half after a 50 percent first half produced 62 points, limiting guards Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin to just 13 of their 50 total points.
Up next is a Friday evening road tilt against Phoenix, but until then, your numbers:
3 Three-pointers sunk by Steve Blake in his first game as a Laker, all three of which were important, none more than a go-ahead bomb with 18.8 seconds remaining. Blake finished with 10 points and three assists without a turnover.
4 Three-pointers dropped by Shannon Brown … in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, a huge stretch for L.A. which turned a big deficit into an eight-point lead. Check out how prophetic Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons was in our season preview about Brown catching and shooting.
7 Combined three-pointers made by Houston’s Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin, though only one came in the second half, compared to L.A.’s second-half-seven from Blake and Brown.
9 Houston’s edge on the glass (53-44), thanks in part to early foul trouble from Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum’s being in street clothes. L.A. countered by committing only 12 turnovers to Houston’s 21, eight of which were caused by Brown and Ron Artest’s four steals apiece.
13 Points off Houston’s bench in the first three quarters for Chase Budinger, a nice lift for the Rockets as L.A. comparatively had 12 points combined off the pine through three even with Blake’s back-to-back threes to end the third.
37 Kobe Bryant’s minute total. Phil Jackson had surmised that Bryant was ready to play more than 30 minutes after slowly ramping up his playing time in the preseason, and No. 24 responded just fine while totaling 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting with 11-of-12 free throws. He added seven assists and five boards.
38.9 L.A.’s halftime shooting percentage, mirroring the generally poor shooting from the defending champs throughout the preseason, allowing the 47.9-percent shooting Rockets to claim a 62-51 lead.