On Sunday night at home, the Lakers faced off against James Harden and the Rockets. Both teams entered the game at 4-5; however, the Lakers were trying to get back to .500 for the first time this season. The game also featured a match-up between the league’s top scorers in Kobe Bryant and James Harden.
Mike D’Antoni is not coaching on the sidelines yet. The Bernie Bickerstaff-era will continue for at least one more game, as new coach Mike D’Antoni is still recovering from knee surgery. Laker point guard Steve Nash’s return was delayed another week as well, team officials announced Friday. Laker point guard Steve Blake was also doubtful to play on Sunday.
The Lakers started with Darius Morris, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard. The Lakers got right to work attacking Omer Asik by pounding the ball inside with Dwight Howard. Pau knocked down the next shot before Chandler Parsons nailed a three. Jeremy Lin used his speed to score against Morris, reminding many fans of the way Lin abused the Lakers last year in the garden.
James Harden showcased his talents on a few possessions as Houston was quickly raining outside shots. The Rockets were also outhustling the Lakers on fastbreaks as well as the glass. Everything offensively for the Lakers was coming from the inside early. Metta World Peace continued his recent stunning offensive play by helping the Lakers reel off a run of their own and regain the lead. Kobe was soon the only Laker not to score but was flawlessly playing the role of facilitator with three early assists. Kobe finally got on the board with five minutes to go but the Lakers still trailed by one.
Patrick Patterson had a few buckets of his own for the Rockets, as the Lakers failed to box him out several times. Former Rocket Jordan Hill came in as the first sub with 3:18 to go as the lead swung back and forth as Kobe began to heat up. The fast-paced offense of the Lakers showcased on Friday continued as Chris Duhon swished a wide open three. The Lakers at one point had made nine straight field goals.
After one, neither team had showed the willingness or ability to play defense and the Lakers led 40-29 after throwing a touchdown style full court pass with one second left.
The Rockets got right to work putting the ball in the hands of James Harden. Harden went right to work on Jodie Meeks. The bench got off to a bad start as the lead was quickly down to five. While James Harden scored on consecutive plays, the bench committed turnovers on two plays in a row. Bickerstaff soon called time out to organize his players.
The Lakers continued to run the offense through Dwight Howard, who was off to a perfect start from the field. Jodie Meeks did, though, struggle continually to guard James Harden. Rookie Terrence Jones swished an outside shot only to be answered by an Antawn Jamison three pointer. Terrence Jones then posterized Chris Duhon with a stunning dunk on a fastbreak but he Laker lead was still six.
Chris Duhon answered back by burning the Rockets with another three, as the new Laker offense featured plenty of open shots for role players. Dwight Howard continued to be a force offensively, as he and Jordan Hill proved very disruptive. Pau Gasol checked back in with seven minutes to go, one of the rare times he and Howard were on the floor together in the second quarter. Kobe also checked back in as Antawn Jamison continued to flourish under expanded playing time with Bickerstaff as coach.
When Darius Morris checked back in, he burned the Rockets from downtown as well. For the first time in a while, things were looking good from beyond the arc. The Lakers and Rockets traded baskets as the offense continued to run through Kobe, Pau, and Dwight Howard. Darius Morris continued his quality play towards the end of the half but Houston’s role player continued to step up.
The Lakers led at the half 68-60 with a dominant performance from Dwight Howard with 18 points and seven boards.
The Lakers got off to a slow start to the third quarter by allowing two straight Houston scores and turning the ball over on their end. Metta World Peace righted the ship by nailing another wide open three, a shot he has seen many times this season. Metta World Peace picked up a flagrant foul when he elbowed Jeremy Lin after a fastbreak foul. Whether or not it was intentional was questionable but the referees felt that it was.
The Lakers continued to make mental mistakes as Kobe fouled Chandler Parsons shooting a three, giving the Rockets a chance to cut the lead to three. The Lakers answered right back with a Gasol swish and then a steal leading to a Kobe Bryant three. The Lakers had the crowd on its feet as well as the momentum. Pau Gasol also reached a career milestone with 15,000 points.
The surging Lakers continued to dominate on the inside to the tune of an 80-69 lead as the Rocket offense was sputtering. Jeremy Lin especially struggled shooting while World Peace responded with an and one dunk extending the Laker lead with a 10-0 run. The crowd nearly exploded as Kobe hit a fading double clutch shot over the outstretched arms of Asik. The Laker lead had quickly ballooned to 16 points. The roof nearly came off the building when Kobe made a four point play after somehow hitting a three from the corner while pushing the ball with one hand.
James Harden quickly brought his team back in the game and soon had the lead back down to eleven. Jordan Hill and many others continued to play well, yet the Rockets stayed in the game even cutting the lead to ten.
The Lakers still seemed to have an answer to every Rocket move, and led 98-87.
The final quarter began with a bang as Jodie Meeks swished a catch and shoot three to further stretch the lead as Darius Morris looked very comfortable running the offense. All Houston players struggled to find their shot with James Harden on the bench.
The outlook appeared bleak for the Rockets as the Lakers easily extended the lead to 19 points—their largest of the game. Houston was forced to call time out after a thunderous dunk from Dwight Howard. The only outcome still in question was whether or not fans would go home with free tacos. On the very next play Superman took off from the ground and soared for a thunderous dunk while finishing the three point play.
The one bright spot for the Houston Rockets was the consistent play of Chandler Parsons, who was putting together a solid outing. The drama was over for the Lakers when Kobe recorded his final rebound for a triple-double.
In the end the Lakers offense was way too much, as they cruised to an easy victory over the Rockets 119-108.