Life on the road is tough for every team no matter their ranking or talent, and a three game losing streak no doubt depresses and discourages a squad. The Los Angeles Lakers came into tonight’s game vs. the Houston Rockets on a three-game losing skid, and they were hoping to get back to their winning ways. The Rockets and Lakers have developed a “rivalry” over the past two seasons, all starting with their seven-game playoff series in the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals. However, the tension stiffened up when Ron Artest left the Rockets to join the Lakers in the summer of 2009. Tonight, Artest will make his reunion in front of the hostile Houston crowd.
Reminiscent to last night’s game, the Lakers traded misses and makes with their opponent. Both the Lakers and Rockets were making their shots, but they were unable to prevent the other from scoring. Five minutes into the game, the Lakers had a mere one point lead, 9-8.
Neither team was able to find an offensive rhythm in the first quarter, thus the score remained fairly close. Based on the fact that last night’s game was played very similar to this one, there was a cause for concern for the Lakers. Poor defense and stagnant offense would only lead to a loss, and the Lakers had to run their system in order to win the game. The opening period concluded with the Lakers leading the Rockets 26-23; despite the face that the Lakers shot 58% from the field, they only were up by three points.
The Lakers started the second quarter with the “Killer Bs” on the court, and they were finally knocking their shots down. Alas, the Lakers’ bench got out of their slump and began to play like they had early in the season. Derrick Caracter was also playing solid basketball to start the quarter, as he was helping the team by grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. The bench went on a 10-4 run to start the quarter and opened up a 36-27 lead.
However, the catalyst for the Lakers’ second quarter success was the versatile Lamar Odom. Odom was bumped up to the center position, and his shot-making abilities troubled Brad Miller. He got in the open court, and was converting on most of his shot attempts. The Lakers eventually expanded their lead to double-digits, but their success was ephemeral. The Rockets closed the second quarter on an 11-2 run to cut the Lakers’ lead to three, 56-53. The Lakers were shooting exceptionally well at 56%; however, they allowed the Rockets to shot 54%. As for the scoring load, both Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom put in 15 points at the half.
The Lakers opened up the second half aggressively; they were attacking the basket and were trying to get to the free-throw line. The Lakers forced five fouls in the first four minutes of the third, and were leading 61-57.
As the game progressed, the Lakers were having trouble containing Rockets’ Guard Kevin Martin. Martin was attacking the hoop, but he was also knocking his shots down from behind the arc. However, no matter how effective Martin and the Rockets played in the third, they were unable to limit Lamar Odom. Odom continued to make key shots, and was playing a very efficient game. The Lakers finished the third quarter with a two point lead, 78-76. The Lakers were once again neck-and-neck with a team entering the fourth quarter.
The Rockets opened up the quarter with their bench on the floor and they were able to recapture the lead 80-78, with a little over ten minutes left to play. The majority of the Lakers’ starters were on the bench, so it was up to the reserves to reestablish and expand the lead.
At the midway point of the fourth quarter, the momentum swung to the Lakers and they were leading 93-87. The Lakers were preparing themselves for a close finish, and quickly got Kobe and the other starters onto the floor.
However, Shane Battier heated up for the Rockets, as he hit three consecutive shots late in the game. With only two minutes left to play the Lakers found themselves down by three points 102-99. Battier continued to play an effective quarter and thanks to “silly” fouls by the Lakers, the Rockets sealed the game at the free-throw line.
The final score was 109-99, in favor of the Houston Rockets. The Lakers’ leading scorer was Kobe Bryant with 27 points, followed by Lamar Odom with 25.