Lakers 112, Rockets 125: Jan. 8 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening contest at Houston with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Nash, Morris, Bryant, World Peace and Sacre
Rockets: J. Lin, J. Harden, C. Parsons, M. Morris, O. Asik

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 What you’ll notice from the starting line up change is the absence of not only Dwight Howard (shoulder), but also Pau Gasol (concussion). Oh, and not to mention Jordan Hill (hip), who like Gasol is not even on the trip to Texas. Get ready for small ball, folks.

8:45 L.A. played as hard as it needed to without the three bigs, opening with a great deal of energy that produced an 18-4 early lead when World Peace drained back-to-back three-pointers, Nash hit an illegal D technical free throw and Darius Morris added a triple. The Lakers used their lack of size to their advantage early, flying all over the place on defense to force Houston into some tough shots of which they mostly missed.

0:50.0 Houston made a few mini runs to get back into it, closing the quarter well as Carlos Delfino came off the bench to hit back-to-back three-pointers, and James Harden book-ended the triples with buckets at the rim (3 of 8 field goals in the quarter) to trim what had been a 13-point lead to 34-28 after the first period. Nonetheless, a good effort from L.A.

SECOND QUARTER
4:21 Houston made another run, this time 12-4, capped by yet another three from Delfino as L.A. again failed to pick him up. However, World Peace answered with a three, and Kobe a hoop at the rim, to put L.A. up 51-49. The pace was extremely fast even for a Lakers team that’s played faster this season, and it was a bit troubling that as hard as L.A. had played the Rockets had found a way to keep it close.

1:00 Nash took over on the offensive end in the final moments, reaching 12 points with a series of pretty moves and shots (5 of 6 field goals), and with back-to-back pretty bounce passes, got his 10,000th assist when Antawn Jamison finished off a screen/roll play. Only Magic Johnson, Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd and John Stockton have ever done it, truly a remarkable accomplishment for a player that received only one scholarship offer to play college basketball.

THIRD QUARTER
3:49 Bryant had been letting the game come to him, not being ultra aggressive in taking eight shots, but he drained back-to-back jumpers as the third rolled on to keep L.A. up five, reaching 10 points. It was Nash running the show, with 16 points and eight assists. However, another quick Rockets run, this time 6-0, put the home team back on top at 78-77. Harden continued to do damage drawing to the rim, either by finishing (9 of 17 FG’s) or at the line (5 of 5 FT’s), without LAL subs like Meeks and Earl Clark picking up fouls.

1:18 Suddenly, Houston’s run climbed all the way to 18-2, L.A. struggling to hit anything on one end and the Rockets missing nothing on the other, allowing an 11-point lead at 91-80. It happened so quickly that the Lakers seemed shell shocked, even as two Bryant free throws and a Duhon three in the final minute trimmed the lead back to nine. The deficit would be eight heading into the final quarter, with the Lakers unable to sustain a lead they’d held for the first 30 odd minutes of the game.

FOURTH QUARTER
8:07 The margin continued to go the wrong way for the Lakers, with Houston getting the fifth three-pointer from Delfino (19 points off the bench) to hold a 105-96 lead early in the final period. L.A. was, again, in trouble.

0:00 The visitors kept trying, but they simply couldn’t protect the rim, with Harden and Lin combining for 50 points and 14 assists, repeatedly getting behind their perimeter defenders in the second half. Bryant had 20 points, World Peace 24 and Nash 16 points with 10 assists in a losing effort, but the veterans couldn’t get the help they needed on the interior as Gasol and Hill watched from home, and Howard from the bench. It doesn’t get easier as L.A. takes its 4-game losing streak to San Antonio for a back-to-back tomorrow night. We’ll see you there.