The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t turn in their best effort and while they nonetheless managed to remain competitive, it made for an even more frustrating 126-111 loss to the Houston Rockets to start a four-game road trip.
LeBron James scored the first four points of the game but the Lakers found themselves in a 14-6 deficit shortly after. Los Angeles answered with an 8-0 run but were unable to slow James Harden, who had 13 points to give the Rockets a 29-24 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Houston didn’t shoot well as a team but hauled in 10 offensive rebounds and held a 15-0 advantage in second chance points through the first 12 minutes. Additionally, the Lakers were just 5-for-11 at the free throw line.
Chris Paul helped the Rockets extend their lead to eight points while Harden was on the bench. James checking back in helped spark a turnaround for the Lakers, and they took a 49-47 lead. But tome of their momentum was stalled by the referees remaining whistle-happy, leading to Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart each picking up three fouls.
Hart was back on the floor to start the third quarter and he had early activity, scoring five quick points. While the Lakers continued to be plagued by misses at the free throw line, which included JaVale McGee shooting an airball, Kyle Kuzma erupted for 12 points in the third.
Lance Stephenson and McGee provided a scoring punch in the fourth quarter but the Rockets answered with back-to-back corner 3-pointers to take a 105-101 lead. Harden then essentially put the game on ice by drawing a phantom foul on Hart for three free throws, followed by consecutive 3-pointers to cap off a personal 9-0 spurt.