Lakers Blow Big Lead in Fourth; Lose to Rockets 107-104
The Los Angeles Lakers squared off with the Houston Rockets tonight, the same team that acquired Derek Fisher on the deadline day deal. The Lakers came into the game at 1-1 since trading Fisher, but they did receive some light with young point guard Ramon Sessions.
The Lakers could not figure out the Utah Jazz on Sunday, despite holding the lead at halftime. Kobe Bryant had a horrible shooting night and everyone knew he wanted to come out and bounce back with an efficient night. The Lakers were in a heated battle for the top of the Western Conference and they could not afford to lose to a team who may not even make it to the post-season.
Kobe Bryant did not wear his protective mask in tonight’s game after using it for several weeks due to a broken nose he suffered during the All-Star Game. Bryant complained about the sauna feeling he experienced when wearing the mask, and it was clear he wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible.
In the opening three minutes of the game, the Lakers’ defense was impeccable and they were not letting the Rockets score in the paint. Andrew Bynum was the anchor to the team’s defense and he blocked a shot and altered quite a few. The Lakers opened up to a 6-0 lead with Bynum and Gasol putting in four and two respectively.
The Lakers continued to feed the ball to Andrew Bynum and he was constantly getting easy looks near the basket. The offense was centered on Bynum and he was delivering with points and offensive rebounds. Los Angeles was shooting the ball extremely well as a team and players were converting on open looks. After a Kobe Bryant three with 6:32 left in the quarter, the Lakers were up 16-6 and were shooting 58 percent from the field.
However, the Rockets made a push mid-way into the quarter and bounced back strong after starting the game 0-5 from the field. The Rockets eventually cut the lead down to four, but the Lakers answered back with their own shots. The Rockets looked like they would take the lead, but the Lakers made shots to keep a nice cushion. With 3:14 left in the quarter, the Lakers were ahead by seven, 27-20.
Los Angeles closed out the first quarter extremely well and had an amazing 40 points in the opening period. The Lakers went on a 20-7 run to expand their lead to 15, 40-25. Kobe Bryant scored nine points and Pau Gasol poured in 12 himself. Los Angeles shot 68 percent from the field and Houston was at a 53 percent.
The Lakers’ second unit let their guard down and that allowed the Rockets to open the period on a 7-0 run. The Rockets were finally playing well on both ends of the court and with Gasol and Kobe on the bench, it was a perfect time for them to make their run. However, the Lakers lead was very large and the Rockets needed more in order to make a dent in the deficit. With 9:08 left to play in the period, the Lakers were up by 12, 44-32.
The Lakers and Rockets went back and forth and Los Angeles would not allow the opponent to make a run. Houston had moments of greatness but whenever it was on the verge of cutting the deficit down to double digits, Los Angeles made key buckets. Kobe Bryant was reinserted into the game and he and Bynum continued to punish the smaller Houston team. At the 6:23 mark of the quarter, the Lakers held a 48-37 lead.
The Lakers’ defense was forcing the Rockets to shoot perimeter jumpers and that helped them maintain their fairly comfortable lead. Still, the Lakers’ offense began to struggle and as a result the Rockets went on a little spurt. Houston was playing some nice defense and that resulted in some difficult shot attempts for Los Angeles. At the 2:47 mark of the period, the Lakers were ahead by seven, 52-45.
Houston ended the half on large run and brought themselves well into striking distance. Despite trailing by 15 points after one period, the Rockets cut the lead down to five, 56-51 at halftime.
Kobe Bryant scored 15 points on 5-13 shooting and as a team, the Lakers were shooting 53 percent from the field.
The Lakers big men were once again the center pieces of the offense to begin the half and the Rockets had no answers for the two seven footers. Gasol and Bynum scored the team’s first four points, but the Rockets were also scoring with the ball in their hands. The Rockets were having their way with the Lakers’ defense and were getting their looks near the rack. With 9:00 left to play in the quarter, the Rockets cut the Lakers’ lead down to one, 60-59.
Kobe Bryant struggled in the opening minutes of the quarter and he had to rely on the frontcourt to provide the team with some offense. Although the big men would get their points in the paint, the offense was very stagnant and it was the complete antithesis of their flow in the opening period. The Rockets were in complete control of the momentum and they fought their way back and eventually took the lead, 63-62, with 6:10 left to play in the third.
The Lakers and Rockets went back and forth and neither team was able to put together a massive run. The Lakers were getting most of their shots from the line, and since their perimeter shots were not falling down, the stripe allowed them to stay in the game. Still, Houston’s defense was very disrupted and the Lakers were fortunate to by up by two, 72-70, with 3:00 remaining in the period.
The Lakers suffered a big blow with under two minutes left in the quarter as Andrew Bynum was ejected from the game due to his second technical foul.
After 36 minutes of play, Los Angeles was ahead by six, 79-73. The team had to play the entire final quarter without Bynum, and that meant Jordan Hill would have to play key minutes down the stretch.
The Lakers opened the quarter with only one starter on the court, but Ramon Sessions stepped up big and ran the offense very well. He was attacking the Rockets’ big men and used his quickness to get buckets near the basket. The Lakers went on an impressive 18-3 run and opened up a 85-73 lead with 10:02 left to play in the game. Even with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol on the bench for a rest, the Lakers’ reserves played well and maintain the team’s lead.
However, the Rockets answered back with their own run to cut the deficit down to six, but once again Los Angeles silenced the crowd with key buckets. Sessions’ speed was extremely important for the Lakers and his ability to attack the basket took some pressure off the other Lakers scorers. At the 7:44 mark of the fourth quarter, the Lakers held a ten point lead, 91-81.
The Lakers were able to dissect the Rockets’ defense and they were nearly unstoppable with the ball in their hands. Sessions was either scoring points or finding teammates for open shots, which allowed the Lakers to maintain their cushion. Sessions had 14 points and four assists, and the Lakers were ahead 95-83 with less 6:30 remaining in the game.
In the final four minutes of the game, the Lakers let their double digit lead slip away after the Rockets went on massive surge. The Rockets made a nice push late in the game and eventually took the lead with a 15-2 run.. Momentum was on their side and they were in control of the game heading into the final minutes.
The Lakers had chances to tie the game late in the game, but the Rockets were rolling and they made big plays in the fourth quarter. As the final buzzer rang, the Lakers blew their big lead and fell to the Rockets, 107-104
Los Angeles will be back in action tomorrow when it travels to Dallas to play the Mavericks at 6:30 p.m. PST.