Without a majority of their main players, the Los Angeles Lakers escaped with a 124-122 win over the Houston Rockets on the night their 2019-20 championship banner was unveiled.
Unlike the game against the New York Knicks, scoring was in abundance as the Lakers and Rockets had no issues putting points on the scoreboard. Houston made their first six shots and took an early seven-point lead but Los Angeles responded and tied the game at 16-16 after a Markieff Morris 3-pointer.
The Lakers extended their run to 14-0 as they turned up the defensive intensity, preventing the Rockets from converting a field goal for over six minutes. Los Angeles executed its offense well to close the first and went into the second with a solid 34-26 lead.
Montrezl Harrell did what he usually does against second units, overpower opposing bigs in the painted area and drawing a charge on the defensive end. Talen Horton-Tucker and Harrell pushed the Laker lead to double digits after each came down with their own emphatic dunks.
However, the Lakers clearly let their foot off the gas pedal as they stopped playing with the same level of effort and energy which allowed Houston to climb back into the game. Andre Drummond was able to finish a couple of times around the rim to cut the Rocket momentum and the Lakers managed to walk into the half with a 59-53 advantage.
Drummond went right back to work in the paint at the top of the third, finding himself open near the basket for easy lay-ins. Despite that, the Rocket offense found its groove from the outside and eventually retook the lead midway through the period.
Los Angeles quickly righted the ship as they were able to go on a 9-0 run that put them back on top but had trouble guarding Kelly Olynyk, who started to really carry the Houston offense. Horton-Tucker was able to find several teammates for open shots which let the Lakers take a 100-96 lead into the fourth.
Houston’s hot shooting continued into the fourth as they kept knocking down outside shots, but Ben McLemore provided a much-needed scoring boost to keep L.A. ahead. Harrell found little resistance scoring in the paint, but the Rockets countered with 3-pointers to keep them within striking distance.
The Purple and Gold were able to get a handle on the game down the stretch as they pounded the Rockets inside for easy baskets. In the final seconds though they found themselves trailing by one when Kyle Kuzma hit the go-ahead layup and Wesley Matthews knocked the ball away from Olynyk to seal the win.
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