The Houston Rockets may be the only team missing more players due to injury than the Los Angeles Lakers and that didn’t make for the prettiest game. But the way things have gone for the Lakers this year they will take a victory any way they can get it.
The Lakers set a new franchise record with 86 points in the paint and a Kyle Kuzma layup with 6.9 seconds remaining lifted them to a 124-122 win over the Rockets. The win kept the Lakers’ slim hopes of escaping the play-in tournament alive after both the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers picked up wins earlier in the night as well.
Down LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Dennis Schroder and Alex Caruso, the playmaking duties for the Lakers fell upon their two young players and they came through in a big way. Talen Horton-Tucker finished with a team-high 23 points and 10 assists while turning the ball over just three times.
Kuzma, meanwhile, flirted with a triple-double, pouring in 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists along with that game-winning basket.
The defense the Lakers showed in the previous game against the New York Knicks was nowhere to be found on this night as they allowed a Rockets team missing 11 players to shoot over 50 percent from the field, including knocking down 18 3-pointers.
The Lakers countered by dominating the paint 86-50 while also forcing 15 Rockets turnovers that lead to 19 L.A. points. Andre Drummond had his second consecutive strong showing with 20 points and 10 rebounds and Montrezl Harrell added 16 points of his own.
On a night the franchise unveiled their 17th NBA Championship banner, the Lakers seemed to have things in order late with an eight-point lead with under three minutes remaining. But the Rockets responded with a 9-0 run over the last couple of minutes before Kuzma’s layup put the Lakers back ahead.
Houston had one more chance to steal a win, but Wesley Matthews’ stout defense came through once again as he poked the ball free from Kelly Olynyk to ice the game.
Back in the starting lineup due to injuries, Markieff Morris had his best performance in weeks with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists while Alfonzo McKinnie added 10 points and five rebounds off the bench.
Next up for the Lakers
The Lakers will finish their regular season with a road back-to-back over the weekend against the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans. They will need either the Mavericks or Blazers to go 0-2 in their final contests to rise out of the play-in tournament however.
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