Kobe Bryant and D'Angelo Russell had the Los Angeles Lakers off to a hot start against the Houston Rockets, but ultimately the team's poor defense, lack of depth, and puzzling rotations combined to result in a 126-97 loss in the final game of their eight game road trip.
Russell continued his recent roll, scoring 7 of the Lakers first 9 points and hitting his first four shots before coming back to earth and finishing with 12 points on 5-14 shooting. The rookie was once again confident and aggressive in his second game back in the starting lineup, showing promising signs of development just 24 games in to his young career, while also displaying some of the difficulties that can be expected of a 19-year old still adjusting to professional basketball.
Bryant played one of his most efficient games of the season in the loss, scoring 25 points on 9-16 shooting to go with 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Bryant was visibly forcing shots much less frequently from the get go and even racked up 5 of his 6 assists in the first quarter as the Lakers rolled to a 25-21 lead. However, the bench allowed an 11-0 Houston run to end the first quarter and a 30-4 run overall that the Rockets never really looked back from.
Dwight Howard (18 points, 12 rebounds, 7-8 shooting) and James Harden (30 points on 21 shots with 3 steals) led the way for Houston, with the never-gun-shy Marcus Thornton (18 points on 7-13 shooting) supplying key scoring off of the Rockets' bench as they pulled away.
Julius Randle continued his recent woes, missing 7 of his 10 shots for six points off of the bench as he missed playing with Russell and/or Clarkson for the second consecutive game. Los Angeles struggled with turnovers once again, coughing up the rock 19 times for 35 Houston fast break points. The Lakers also struggled to defend Houston without fouling, sending the Rockets to the line for 28 free throws.
The Lakers finish their road trip 1-7, and will (finally) return home to Los Angeles for two days off before hosting the Milwaukee Bucks.