Lakers 99, Rockets 109: Dec. 1 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s road game at Houston, as the Lakers looked to avoid their first four-game losing streak since acquiring Pau Gasol in February of 2008, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and P. Gasol
Rockets: K. Lowry*, K. Martin, S. Battier, L. Scola, C. Hayes

FIRST QUARTER
8:38 The early returns on L.A.’s response to three straight losses were pretty positive, as the Lakers looked more sharp running their offense, involved Lamar Odom on two of the first three possessions (one resulting in his isolation hoop over Battier), stayed home defensively and used their length advantage inside to earn Bryant a layup (Gasol’s offensive board over Hayes) to grab a 9-6 edge.

0:24.9 The brightest sign of the period was Odom’s offensive emergence after a quiet string of games during L.A.’s losing streak. He took five shots, making four, including an in-rhythm three-pointer to give the Lakers a 26-23 lead after one. I asked Phil Jackson before the game what he thought about Odom’s minutes considering his Team USA requirements, and he responded that he’d actually like to be playing Odom more than he has. With Bryant’s FGA’s going up and Odom less involved particularly with Gasol than he had been in L.A.’s 8-0 start, the team’s coaching staff must have been pleased to see an aggressive Odom.

SECOND QUARTER
9:01 Jackson certainly backed up his comments about playing Odom more, which continued to pay off as he led the bench on a 10-4 run to open the second (15-4 including Odom’s final five points of the first) to make it a 36-27 game. Odom had 11 points with five rebounds, while Matt Barnes and Shannon Brown scored two buckets each in support.

6:00 OK, last Odom comment for a while: with L.O. running the show, the Lakers held onto a 40-36 lead halfway through the period while giving Gasol and Bryant a healthy rest. Odom scored 15 points, coming predominantly on jumpers, which is somewhat rare as his offensive bursts usually come as a product of his offensive glass work alongside streaks out in transition. This is also heartening for the Lakers as Odom will be returning to play with that second unit when Bynum comes back shortly.

0:16.2 After almost entirely controlling the half, the Lakers took their foot off the pedal just for a minute, and Houston said “Thanks” while scoring 11 straight points, including two transition three-pointers, to cut the lead suddenly to just one. Bryant did manage a fadeaway J from the free throw line at the buzzer to put L.A. up 56-53 at the half.

THIRD QUARTER
5:53 The Lakers failed to exert the control they’d established in the first 22 minutes of the game, allowing Houston to tie the score at 66 halfway through the third, the Rockets gaining an element of confidence they’d lacked until that last burst. Odom hadn’t slowed, however, nailing a triple to reach 21 points, one short of his season high. He’d add two more buckets in the next few minutes to reach a season-high 25 points.

0:00 The third quarter was played to a relative draw, Houston managing to trim one point off L.A.’s halftime lead with the visitors taking a 78-76 lead into the fourth. Gasol, however, left for the locker room with trainer Gary Vitti, and with Kobe still resting on the bench, the group featuring Blake, Brown, Barnes, Odom and Caracter would be tasked with preserving the lead to open the final period, playing to avoid the team’s first four-game losing streak since acquiring Gasol.

FOURTH QUARTER
9:26 We learned that Gasol was bothered by some hamstring issues, but he returned to the court after being stretched out by athletic trainer Gary Vitti, and promptly checked in for duty. Meanwhile, L.A. had opened a small lead thanks to consecutive and-1 buckets from Barnes, the second coming off a beautiful feed from Blake.

6:29 More Blake, more Barnes to get L.A. a 7-point lead, as Blake nailed an end-of-shot clock three-pointer, and Barnes scrapped for an offensive rebound before nailing subsequent free throws after drawing a foul. But the lead didn’t last long: Martin, known for drawing fouls with a series of fakes and body leans into defenders, drew a three-shot foul on just-checked-back-in Bryant, which prompted the rare Jackson out-of-seat protest. Martin hit all three shots, and Lowry then countered Bryant’s jumper on the other end with a three, preceding a pull-up miss from Blake and two Scola free throws (foul again on Bryant) that cut the lead to one.

1:30 The Lakers continued to bring out the best in their opponents, whether it was due to inadequate defense or just bad luck, as usual non-threat Shane Battier nailed back-to-back threes, then a pull-up 20 footer to put Houston up 102-99, putting L.A. on the ropes for the fourth consecutive fourth quarter…

… After Bryant’s top-of-the-key miss from three, Battier drew a foul on Fisher while going up for a three, hitting all three free throws to put L.A. in a deep hole at 105-99. That, improbably as it seems, marked 11 straight fourth quarter points for Battier.

0:00 The Lakers wouldn’t score again, in turn falling for the fourth straight game, 109-99. Up next are home games against Sacramento and Washington, but until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
43 Second half points scored by the Lakers after a 56-point first half.

25 Season-high point total for Lamar Odom, who was hot early in scoring 15 points in the first half. He added 11 rebounds and two blocks in his best all-around game since L.A.’s 8-0 start to the season.

17 Games missed by Pau Gasol last season due to separate hamstring issues in either leg, notable tonight as he left the game briefly after the third quarter to get stretched out by Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti. Gasol did return moments later, but finished the game with only eight points and nine rebounds.

11 Improbable fourth quarter points scored consecutively be usual non-offensive threat Shane Battier, pulling Houston from down three to up six (surrounding two Bryant free throws, L.A.’s final points, with 2:16 left). Battier finished just one point off his season-high of 18.

10 Three-pointers hit by the Rockets compared with L.A.’s five, including three down the stretch of the final quarter.