The day was November 7, 2013. The Lakers were 2-3 on the young season, with a surprising victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on opening night, and then a 2-point victory over the Atlanta Hawks on the road. They had lost to the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and had just been handily defeated by the Dallas Mavericks two days prior to that night's match-up against the Houston Rockets. To most of the players it was just a normal regular season game, but the media was making it out to be something else entirely.
Just five months earlier, Dwight Howard had decided to leave Los Angeles, after playing for the Lakers for the 2012-13 NBA season. He decided to join James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Much speculation had gone down about why he chose to leave, but most fingers pointed at Kobe Bryant. Some media circles stated that Kobe was unwilling to pass the torch to Dwight, and that Kobe wanted Dwight to earn it. Whatever the case may have been, Dwight was in Houston and Kobe was still in LA.
The Lakers would take on the Rockets on this November night without their leader, Kobe Bryant, as he was still recovering from Achilles surgery. The Lakers starters (Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Nick Young, Pau Gasol & Chris Kaman) would jump out to an early lead, 24-8, with three straight 3-pointers from Blake. The Lakers bench unit(consisting of Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson & Jordan Hill) came in and continued the hot shooting. At the end of the first quarter, the Lakers led 36-19.
The second quarter saw the Rockets go on many good runs, but the Lakers always seemed to answer with a 3 pointer. Johnson, Farmar and Meeks were really feeling it from deep as the Lakers would finish the first half only missing 3 of their 14 three-pointers. However, Harden and Lin did their fair share of damage for the Rockets as they drew many fouls on the Lakers, and at half time, the Lakers lead was trimmed to 14, 64-50.
The third quarter is where thing started to slip away. The hot shooting by the Lakers wasn't so hot anymore, and Harden would continue his onslaught from the charity stripe. After going back and forth for the first few minutes of the quarter, the Rockets went on an 8-0 run to cut the Lakers lead to 6. After a Mike D'Antoni timeout, the Lakers would again see more of Harden & Lin at the free throw line. Harden would convert an and-one and Lin knocked down a pair to cut the Lakers lead to 2. The Lakers didn't relinquish the lead however, and as the 3rd quarter came to a close, the Lakers were still up by 4, 81-77.
Just minutes into the fourth quarter, and Harden tied the game up at 84. The Lakers would take back the lead, pushing it back up to 4, but after some Asik free throws, a Harden 3, and a Parsons fast break lay-up, the Rockets had taken a 2 point lead. The Lakers reverted to the "Hack-a-Howard", but struggled to get any offense going. The Rockets lead ballooned to 6. Nash hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 4 and fouled Dwight one more time before the two-minute mark. Dwight hit one free throw to stretch the Rockets lead to 5.
The next possession, Meeks hit a huge 3 to cut the lead to 2. The Rockets would miss a jumper, but a Laker turnover still had them down 2 with a little over a minute to go. Howard would be fouled the next possession, but would miss 2 free throws. The next two possessions would be empty trips for each team. The Lakers had the ball with 10 seconds left in the game, down by two. After the ball was knocked out of bounds by the Rockets, the Lakers were set to take the ball out on the Rockets baseline with 3.4 seconds to go. Enter Steve Blake.
Steve Blake ended the game by hitting his fourth 3-pointer, taking his point total to 14. The Lakers shot 16-35 (46%) from deep. Jodie Meeks led the Lakers in scoring with 18, while Wesley Johnson had 16. Three other Lakers scored in double figures.