Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest against Houston, the Lakers looking for a fifth straight victory, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Rockets: G. Dragic, C. Lee, C. Parsons, L. Scola, M. Camby
4:00 A rather sluggish start from L.A. produced a 22-20 deficit after Dalembert scored easily inside,the Lakers shooting well from the field (6 for 11) but turning the ball over five times and allowing two Chandler Parsons triples.
1:00 Off to a terrific shooting start in April (62 percent in three games), Kobe started this one a bit slowly, making 3 of 8 shots as the Lakers fell behind by five points at 29-24 after the first quarter. The key stat was turnovers, LAL coughing it up seven times, compared to Houston’s three, and the home team conceding five offensive boards to double the trouble. The Lakers did do some work at the foul line, making eight of nine attempts.
8:40 A strong push from LAL’s second unit, led by World Peace (in instead of Sessions, who’d been starting with that group alongside Steve Blake in the backcourt), who got his scoring on in a serious way with a game-high 15 points. MWP was killing the much slighter Courtney Lee in the paint, repeatedly sealing him off under the rim before turning for layups. He also added a triple and four free throws, helping L.A. take a 39-35 lead with a 15-6 push in the period.
1:55 Sessions missed his second and third free throws in four attempts that might have kept L.A. up five, though Bynum’s dunk on the next possession kept it at three after a Dalembert (back from Houston’s locker room) scored his fifth field goal off Houston’s bench. L.A.’s energy was much better than the first quarter, however, thanks in no small part to McRoberts and Barnes (12 total boards off the bench, eight from Barnes).
0:26.6 Just over a minute later, and L.A. was suddenly up 11, thanks to a quick burst that included a Kobe three, MWP layup (17 points) from Sessions (four dimes), and three Kobe free throws (18 points). The Rockets did manage a bucket in the final seconds, and when a full court football pass from Barnes just came off the rim as McRoberts skied hi to try and throw in a reverse layup, the lead was 59-50 heading into halftime. An impressive quarter saw the Lakers make 12 of 22 field goals, plus nine of 11 free throws towards 35 points, while Houston scored only 21.
7:00 LAL’s starters got outplayed in the first quarter, and here again in the third, the Rockets using a 7-2 run to cut the lead to just one on a Courtney Lee three, the fourth for Houston. Sessions was off on his shot for the first time since he joined the Lakers, making only one of four attempts from the field and the foul line … at least until he exploded for a big one-handed dunk after turning the corner explosively off a pick and roll.
4:28 Houston continued to play well, getting another Lee triple to turn what was in the second quarter an 11-point Lakers lead into a 75-73 lead of their own. Not pleased with the energy from the starters, Brown called upon McRoberts, Blake and Barnes off the pine.
0:00 Bynum somehow got a buzzer-beating lofted floater to go in off the top of the backboard, on the left tip of the glass, as he got pushed from behind (no call, which he didn’t like, though he liked it slightly more than Dalembert pushing him in the back moments earlier [he got a tech for that one]). But the refs said it hit a wire, meaning no bucket, meaning Houston led 84-81 after a 34-24 third quarter.
11:17 Andrew Bynum: tossed after getting his second technical foul, which happened as he said something to Houston’s bench after swatting Dalembert (who pushed him in the back earlier, remember) on one end and scoring over him on the other. The defense for Bynum: he was excited, and did something he’s seen Bryant do hundreds of times. Pretty quick whistle for that, considering he already had a technical. The offense: with one tech, he shouldn’t have put himself in that position. You can decide.
5:12 L.A., responding in part to Bynum’s ejection and Houston’s physical play, were absolutely swarming the offensive glass on one end, and flying around on D, though HOU stayed in the mix by continuing to bury three-pointers, including a shot-clock-beating triple from the top of the key from center Marcus Camby. His hit was the team’s ninth, as we were tied at 91.
0:55.3 It was Goran Dragic that nailed the dagger three for Houston to beat L.A. in Texas on March 20, and he came up big down the stretch again, getting consecutive layups to fall that put L.A. down five in the final minute. Despite some Kobe points, L.A. couldn’t close the gap, and fell 112-107. The biggest problem all night was energy, L.A. looking like a team that had played four games in five nights (SAT/SUN/TUE/WED), and Houston like the squad that hadn’t played a game since Monday at home. No rest for the weary in this case, however, L.A. hopping directly on a flight to Phoenix for yet another back-to-back. We’ll see you there.