Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening contest 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: Duhon*, Bryant, World Peace, Jamison and Howard
Rockets: J. Lin, J. Harden, C. Parsons, P. Patterson, O. Asik
*Two Lakers were making their first starts, with Chris Duhon replacing Darius Morris and Antawn Jamison in for Pau Gasol, who would be out at least this game and the next
8:09 Antawn Jamison had five of his team’s early 10 points in a 10-2 edge, with the Rockets managing just 1 of 7 field goals against an active Lakers D. Mike D’Antoni always wants to play fast, and he had his guys out running in this one.
3:20 After making just one of his first four, Kobe Bryant hit four of his next five shots to lead all scorers with 12, allowing L.A. to double Houston’s 13 points. Mike D’Antoni continued to tweak the rotation, putting Earl Clark in at the four for Jamison, likely saving Jordan Hill to play backup 5 for Howard.
8:36 The Lakers held onto a 36-30 lead despite using a second unit (Morris-Meeks-MWP-Jamison-Hill) that had yet to play with one another this season. World Peace hit two tough jumpers to held the Lakers withstand an opponent starting to get hot from three, draining consecutive triples after making only 2 of 10 in the first quarter. Meanwhile, MWP grabbed a board to reach 4,000 for his career, just a game after hitting his 1,000th three. And if he scores 18 points, he’ll become just the sixth player in NBA history to total 12,000+ points, 4,000+ rebounds, 1,500+ steals and 1,000+ threes in a career. The others: Reggie Miller, Kobe, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce.
3:25 The bench continued to play very well, pushing L.A.’s lead to 13 while Bryant got extra rest, then saw Kobe immediately score five straight upon checking in to make it 51-35. That gave him 17 points, in a game he needed 52 to reach 30,000 for his career. At the break, L.A. held a 58-45 edge, the Rockets managing to shoot only 32 percent from the field, only staying close thanks to 15 offensive boards towards 14 second chance points.
5:54 Pulling up for a deep, deep triple as the shot clock ran down was World Peace – his third tough shot from 20+ feet out in the game – to push L.A.’s lead back to 14 at 73-59, when they had seen the Rockets cut the lead to as few as seven moments earlier. Houston was getting some real poor shooting from its young star, James Harden, who was only 2 for 13.
3:52 But less than two minutes later, the Rockets cut the lead back to seven with a quick 7-0 run, capped by back-to-back transition layups from Chandler Parsons. Mike D’Antoni certainly wasn’t pleased with the second, since it came after Bryant was whacked in the eye/nose – staying on the floor holding his face – but no call was made. The run was snapped moments later when Jodie Meeks hit two free throws, Houston having already been in the bonus, and Kobe followed with an and-1 to push it right back to a 12-point game at 80-68.
0:00 A baseline fadeaway J went through for Kobe near the buzzer, allowing a 10-point lead after three despite Houston’s outplaying L.A. in the period, trimming the lead from 15 to 83-73. The test for L.A. in this one would be how a second unit sans Bryant and Howard, with Nash/Gasol watching in street clothes, create shots. Duhon was out there to facilitate, at least, as he’d done well throughout the game, with Morris on the pine. Meeks, MWP, Jamison and Hill joined him.
10:00 Hitting a pair of tough shots were Hill and then Meeks, and Duhon then got Hill an and-1 at the rim, the lead getting back to 13 for a moment. That’s precisely what the Lakers needed out of that unit, with Houston pushing hard to try and get back into it before the starters returned. Duhon was really playing well, organizing the second group and creating shots, and was a team-high +20 on the evening.
6:06 The second unit had the lead at 92-81 after Hill’s dunk, his nine boards in 14 minutes also standing out, but they quickly gave up a 7-0 run that had the lead down to just four. The good news for the Lakers was that Howard and Kobe were able to rest until the 6-minute mark, which should afford them fresh legs down the stretch.
2:00 For a good two minute stretch, the Rockets did nothing but hack Howard away from the ball. He missed the first two, split the next six, then hit two straight for a total of 5 of 10. The Lakers, however, couldn’t find a way to get stops when they needed them, with Houston repeatedly getting to the foul line themselves, and finding offense from a player most Lakers fans haven’t heard of in Greg Smith, whose two free throws with 15.7 seconds left suddenly had Houston with a 4-point lead, when they hadn’t led all game until the 2:38 mark on a Toney Douglas three. Bryant drained an immediate three on the other end, and Douglas missed his first free throw of the season to leave the deficit at only two.
With 3.9 seconds left, another Bryant three rimmed out, but World Peace grabbed the board. He had a lane to the rim, but instead faded away, missing badly, and Jamison’s attempt at a tip was deflected. After leading by eight after the first, 15 at the half and 10 after three quarters, the Lakers lost the game, falling to 8-10 on the season. Up next is a back-to-back with New Orleans, after what will surely be a frustrating flight for the Lakers players and coaches. We’ll see you there.