The Los Angeles Lakers finally hit the last stop of their eight game road trip as they went to Houston to take on the Rockets.
Jordan Clarkson would sit out his second straight game because of a sprained ankle, but D’Angelo Russell stepped up in a big way against the San Antonio Spurs and would look to continue his recent good play in Houston.
Russell is likely to be matched up with MVP runner-up James Harden who remains one of the NBA’s best players. For Lakers fans, however, Dwight Howard remains the most hated player in the league and this marks the first meeting of the year between the two sides.
Roy Hibbert got the Lakers on the board early and D’Angelo Russell came out aggressive again with five quick points to put the Lakers ahead 7-6. Kobe hit Nance with a beautiful pass for a dunk and Hibbert got another basket, but the Rockets matched the Lakers step-for-step as a Harden jumper tied the game at 13. The teams continued to trade baskets and Kobe picked up his fourth assist to Hibbert and added his first basket, a three-pointer, to keep the Lakers ahead 23-21. Turnovers began to hurt the Lakers as both teams went with their second units down the stretch. A reverse layup from Marcus Thornton and a dunk from Terrence Jones capped a 9-0 Rockets run. One last layup from Harden made it 32-25 Rockets at the end of the first.
The Rockets run continued in the second quarter as they increased their lead to 14 points after back-to-back threes from Marcus Thornton. After a couple of dunks from Dwight Howard, the Rockets suddenly had a comfortable 20 point lead as the Lakers bench ruined a good start. Kobe would lead the Lakers back, however, scoring 11 of the Lakers next 13 points, including two three-pointers, to bring them back within striking distance at 51-42. The Rockets would begin pulling back ahead at the end of the quarter, however, as Harden led them to a 10-2 run to end the half as the Rockets led comfortably 63-46.
The Lakers started the third quarter with three straight turnovers allowing the Rockets to pull back ahead by 20 points after a pair of free throws from Harden. The Lakers would continue to fight and a deep three from Russell followed by a layup from Williams brought the Lakers within 70-55 with eight minutes remaining in the quarter. Both teams traded baskets, but favored the Rockets who remained ahead by 17 midway through the quarter. Kobe hit a couple of baskets, but Harden continued to match him as the Rockets remained ahead big. The Lakers bench made a small dent in the deficit after baskets from Randle and Sacre, but a three from Corey Brewer ended that quickly. Kobe continued his excellent game, hitting a jumper to bring his total to 25 points, but the Lakers remained way behind, 91-76 at the end of the third.
Nick Young got the Lakers started with eight quick points, to bring the Lakers within 11, but the Lakers defense remained subpar and allowed another three from Thornton to end the Lakers momentum. The Lakers bench would continue to fight, however as a Randle layup and Young’s third three of the fourth kept the Lakers slight hopes alive. A jumper from Williams would cut it to 13, but a 9-0 run capped by back-to-back threes from Harden and Beverley put the Rockets up 22 and ended any hopes of a Lakers comeback. Both benches emptied as the rest of the game was academic. The Lakers would ultimately fall in Houston 126-97 to finish their road trip 1-7.