The Los Angeles Lakers began their two-game road trip Wednesday night without Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, making a matchup with the Houston Rockets all the more difficult.
While the Rockets boast the best offense in the league, it was the Lakers who came out firing. A barrage of 3-pointers gave them an early 9-0 lead, which swelled to 37-22 before the first quarter came to a close.
In particular, Kyle Kuzma was locked in through the first 12 minutes as he scored 16 points on a perfect 6-for-6 shooting. Kuzma made his first nine baskets before a miss, and proceeded to score a career-high 38 points.
As was to be expected, the Rockets mounted multiple runs to cut into and eventually erase their deficit. James Harden spearheaded their attack by scoring 24 of his 30 first-half points in the second quarter.
Harden finished with a game-high 51 points, but it wasn’t enough for Houston, who saw their 14-game winning streak come to an end.
Corresponding to that, the Lakers snapped their three-game losing streak. Luke Walton spoke fondly of his team’s composure and ability to learn from previous losses, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“The fact that we’ve lost a bunch of close games and that our guys haven’t lost faith or work ethic in what we’re doing even though we’ve been losing games. They’ve been practicing just as hard, been just as hungry, just as motivated to keep getting better. We keep saying it takes the failure, it hurts to really grow and come out strong on the other side, they showed a ton of resilience tonight, being down two starters.”
While the Lakers’ lead grew to as many as 22 points in the second quarter, it was cut to four by halftime. Houston then took the lead behind a 6-1 run to start the third quarter. L.A. responded with a spurt of their own and the teams went on to trade baskets.
That was until the Lakers defense clamped down in the fourth quarter, during which the Rockets missed seven consecutive shots. The Lakers jumped out to a 110-100 lead with roughly four minutes left, and they held off a late Rockets’ rally.
Next for Los Angeles is a road game Friday against the Golden State Warriors. The meeting is the third within the past month, with the Warriors winning the previous two games in overtime at Staples Center.
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