Lakers 108, Rockets 99: Jan. 3 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest against Houston, the Lakers looking to bounce back from Sunday’s loss at Denver, 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, Barnes, Gasol and Bynum
Rockets: K. Lowry, K. Martin, C. Budinger, L. Scola, J. Hill

FIRST QUARTER
8:44 We know that Kobe went 6-for-28 in Sunday’s loss at Denver, and spent the flight back breaking down the game film while sitting next to his coach, Mike Brown, on the team plane. At practice, Kobe said he’d keep on shooting, and he delivered on his promise early while making his first three attempts, the third of which was a pass off the backboard, to himself, for a pretty hoop (one of his favorite moves).

2:38 Before hitting two free throws to put the Lakers up 22-19, Kobe had missed five straight field goals and two free throws, reversing hit hot early trend. It was a bit of a listless contest to that point, with neither team playing particularly well, but L.A. closed the quarter strong — getting a corner three from Steve Blake — to take a 31-26 lead out of the period. Bynum was strong with eight points and seven boards.

SECOND QUARTER
6:37 Bryant hit a free throw line jumper after checking back into the line up to put the Lakers up 39-31, but L.A. promptly gave up jumpers to Scola and Martin, seeing their lead chopped in half. Bryant missed his next shot, making him 4-for-10, while Gasol had only taken three shots (making two) despite a mismatch with Luis Scola. Shot distribution is always an interesting topic for the Lakers, but Mike Brown made it clear that he’d ride with Bryant being aggressive.

0:00 The close to the half was an interesting one for both teams, as Rockets coach Kevin McHale almost dared L.A. to pound the ball inside by having Scola an Chandler Parsons guarding Bynum and Gasol, but Bryant missed consecutive jumpers and Houston scored on the other end. L.A. finally got smart, force-feeding Gasol and Bynum (12 points, 14 rebounds) on back-to-back trips down, and Kobe hit a triple to give him a game-high 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting. The 7-0 run had L.A. up 50-46 at the break.

THIRD QUARTER
6:00 Moments after a rare easy transition basket from L.A. (Barnes streaking out ahead of HOU’s D after Bynum’s 17th rebound), Bryant drew the third foul on Martin … in the six minutes of the quarter. Out of a time out, Budinger was back on Kobe.

0:47.5 Bryant found his touch in the third, making 5-of-6 shots in the third, plus two free throws, to reach a game-high 28 points, though Houston trimmed three points off LAL’s halftime lead to get within 76-75. Scola was an efficient 10-for-15 towards his 20 points, while Budinger

FOURTH QUARTER
10:38 Back to Bynum early in the fourth, as his 18th board preceded 1-of-2 free throws, before backup PG’s Dragic and Blake exchanged three pointers. Blake then continued his second straight solid game off the bench by getting a pull-up jumper to drop, moving him up to 11 points on 4-of-6 FG’s, plus two boards and two assists, L.A. pulling to an 87-81 lead in the process.

4:40 A big momentum changer, at least potentially: with L.A. up 10, Gasol thought he drew a foul as Scola flopped, and hit the basket for an and-1 … but the foul went on him instead, and when Lowry pulled up for a three, we had a six-point swing. Dalembert then converted an and-1 in transition, turning that potential 13-point lead into just five points.

2:29 Kobe, however, was having none of it, hitting a baseline jumper, then adding a tough hoop off glass from the left block to get to 34 points. He’d found his touch in the second half, making eight of his 11 attempts, plus eight boards and six dimes. Bynum, meanwhile, recorded his second career 20-rebound game (21), and was three points away from his first 20-20 effort.

0:00 Sure enough, Bynum got his 20-20, leaking out for a breakaway slam off Barnes’ feed, to finish with 21 points and 22 boards. Despite some late triples from Lowry, L.A. also finished off Houston, emerging with a 108-99 win, their first 100-point scoring night of the season. That’s four wins in five games for L.A., who head to Portland tomorrow afternoon in advance of a Thursday road game.