The Lakers finally had something to feel good about in the early part of the season after Tuesday’s win against the Hawks. While Atlanta did make a strong comeback in the fourth quarter, teams must learn how to overcome those sort of games before they can be taken seriously.
Now that Nick Young is back and seemingly healthy after a 17 point performance off of the bench, the Lakers have somebody besides Kobe who they can depend on to create shots for himself. He would have to be consistent and equally as aggressive against James Harden and the 9-2 Rockets.
The Rockets were coming off of a blow-out loss to the Grizzlies going into Wednesdays game. The Rockets did not connect from the outside which resulted in a loss. Trevor Ariza, who made five threes against the Lakers in the first game of the season, was just one of seven in that game. The Lakers would have to limit the amount of three-pointers by the Rockets in order to pull out their second straight victory.
Helping matters for the Lakers, Dwight Howard would not play in the game due to a strained right knee.
Kobe came out aggressive hitting a three from the left elbow and Jeremy Lin hit one of his own to give the Lakers the early lead. Wesley Johnson made a great play defensively and was hacked for the clear-path foul. Johnson would hit both free throws but Ariza would finish on the next possession on a reverse layup. Carlos Boozer settled down on the right block and scored on a post move to establish himself early on. Ariza came down and hit a three to cut the Laker lead to one, but Kobe drove the right baseline and found Boozer for a lay-in to make the score 12-11 halfway through 12 minutes. Boozer cored again for his sixth point of the quarter, but Kosta Papanikolaou hit a three to tie the game. Ed Davis gave the Lakers energy off of the bench with a huge block that lead to a Boozer layup. The Rockets and Lakers traded three-pointers in three straight possessions as time expired in the first quarter. The Rockets lead 23-21.
The Rockets opened up the quarter how they ended the first with another make from beyond the arc. Young retaliated with a jumper from the elbow and Ronnie Price got into the mix with a three to tie the game yet again. Johnson came up with a steal that lead to a Price dunk on a fast break as the Lakers continued to get help from their second unit. Robert Sacre hit a shot in the lane and Jordan Hill hit his patent outside jumper from above the charity stripe. After an Ariza three, Kobe made a layup and Hill scored again to make the score 38 apiece halfway through the quarter. Kobe collected his 7th point of the game on a shot from the top of the key and hit another to take the lead. On the next Lakers possession Kobe found Boozer inside for a layup and the foul. The Rockets scored four straight to pull within one as the score was 45-44 with under three minutes to go in the half. After a Papanikolaou three, Kobe hit a jumper for his 11th point of the game. He would make a layup at the end of the quarter to make the score 51-49 going into halftime.
Kobe hit his sixth basket in a row to start the second half to get the Lakers going but Harden scored on a fast break to keep the Rockets ahead. Ariza hit the Rockets 11th three of the game to give them a seven point lead with over four minutes gone by in the period. Kobe found Hill in his usual spot but the Rockets came right back with a two of their own. Hill hit another outside shot on two straight possessions via two Kobe assists, but Harden hit another Rockets three to keep the lead at seven. Kobe hit his 17th point out of a timeout to narrow the gap as the Lakers were playing from behind throughout the period. Young hit a three to bring the Lakers within five, but Harden responded with a three of his own to make the Rockets lead eight. He scored yet again to make give Houston their largest lead of the night. Three Kobe free throws brought The Lakers within striking distance with a minute left in period as Davis cleaned up a Kobe miss for the and one opportunity. The score was 75-70 with 12 minutes of basketball remaining.
Young hit a bucket to cut the lead to three to begin the quarter. After sloppy play from both teams, Davis cleaned up a Lin missed layup as they made a push for the lead. Without a hitch Houston hit two straight threes to put them up by seven as The Lakers called a timeout. Hill hit his 14th point after a couple of free throws and Young hit an outside jumper but acquired a technical foul after words with official Joey Crawford. Harden, however, missed the free throw and Hill converted on a layup on an aggressive take to the basket for his 16th point. “Swaggy” drove to the lane and hit a wild layup over his shoulder to take the lead, but Harden hit two free throws to make the game 83-82 with under six minutes left in the game. After a Harden three-point-play, Kobe drove to the lane for a high-flying layup. A Rockets three-point play extended the lead and Kobe hit two free throws to make it a three point game with under three minutes remaining. Harden would knock a tough jumper to put the Rockets up five with two minutes remaining, but Kobe would respond with a three-point play to cut the lead to two. The teams trade some free throws resulting in the Lakers cutting the lead to one with under a minute remaining. Johnson came up with a huge steal and got a fast break layup and foul to give the Lakers a two-point lead with 43 seconds left. The Lakers got a stop and Young hit two free throws to give the Lakers a four-point lead with 22 seconds left. Harden airballed a three and Kobe knocked down two free throws to ice the game as the Lakers completed the comeback and got the win 98-92.
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