The Los Angeles Lakers have an opportunity to avenge their recent defeat to the Houston Rockets tonight at Staples Center. After a decent first quarter the Lakers let the game slip away from them and the Rockets never looked back in the last matchup.
This time the Rockets are in Los Angeles and the Lakers are coming off of their best win of the season. D’Angelo Russell is blossoming in his rookie season and Kobe Bryant is playing his best basketball all year. The Rockets’ locker room is in turmoil, so the Lakers have a chance to win their second straight tonight.
The Rockets jumped to a quick lead with two three-pointers from Patrick Beverley and three free throws from Dwight Howard and Clint Capela, as the Lakers trailed 9-2 just two minutes into the game. The Lakers could not keep the Rockets off of the offensive glass and the Rockets extended their lead to 10 points with 7:26 remaining in the first quarter. Halfway through the first, the Lakers trailed 19-6 and the Rockets already made four of their six three-point attempts. With the Lakers down 16, Clarkson stripped the ball from James Harden and finished the showtime-esque fast break with a layup with the assist from Russell. The Lakers scored all of their field goals in the paint and struggled to score outside and trailed 29-18 at the end of the first quarter.
Kobe checked back into the game and froze Howard in the paint with a pump fake and scored on a short fall away jumper. Lou Williams hit a corner three on the next possession and the Lakers cut their deficit to six points. Julius Randle picked up a head of steam in transition, but missed the right-handed layup and Kobe was there to clean up the miss and the Lakers trailed 31-27 with 8:53 left in the half. The Rockets came out of the timeout with a run of their own and extended their lead to nine points, but Randle made his first three of his career with the shot clock winding down. The Lakers struggled to score for a few minutes until Larry Nance Jr. got an offensive rebound and dunked it home, cutting the Lakers deficit to eight points with 1:39 remaining in the half. The Lakers trailed 52-39 at the end of the first half after Clarkson fouled Harden on a three-point attempt.
The Lakers turned the ball over to start the half, but Howard was sent to the bench after picking up his fourth foul with 11:04 remaining in the third quarter. Howard’s absence in the paint resulted in back-to-back layups for the Lakers and they trailed 44-54. With 9:25 left in the quarter, Kobe turned back the clock and shut down Staples Center as he rose up with a right-handed poster dunk over Clint Capela. D’Angelo Russell was given a technical foul in lieu of his reaction to Kobe’s hammer dunk, but the Lakers bench could not contain their excitement for the 20-year veteran’s highlight dunk. Kobe continued to put on a show with a drive past Trevor Ariza to give him 17 points in the game. Despite Kobe’s throwback third quarter, the Lakers trailed the Rockets 68-78 at the end of three.
The Lakers started the fourth quarter with a 8-2 run behind some strong play on both ends from Russell and Randle. With the Lakers closing the gap, the Rockets scored 11 unanswered points of their own and the Lakers trailed 76-91 with 5:21 remaining in the ball game. Kobe finally stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer and the Lakers employed the Hack-A-Howard in order to negate Houston’s momentum. Howard made seven of his 12 attempts from the line during the Hack-A-Howard, but the Lakers failed to produce on the offensive end and the Lakers trailed by 19 with 3:41 remaining in the game. Young would replace Kobe who left the game to a nice applause from the Staples Center crowd. Russell got his first basket of the game with under three minutes left on a nice layup and Randle collected his 12th double-double of the season, but the Lakers would fall again to the Rockets, 107-87.