The fans at Toyota Center got what they came to see, as Kobe Bryant turned back the clock, but the Houston Rockets pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 130-110 and keep their playoff hopes alive.
The final margin belied how competitive the Lakers were for the majority of the contest. After a slow start that saw the Lakers turn the ball over on three of the first four possessions, Bryant took matters into his own hands, aided by the defense-averse Rockets. He scored 15 points in the first quarter, and followed that up with another 15 in the third quarter, ultimately finishing with 35 for his highest scoring output since Feb. 2.
Whether a result of Houston's lackadaisical effort or extra motivation from going against former teammates Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza as well as one of the league's premier two-guards in James Harden, Kobe enjoyed some of the best games of his final season versus the Rockets. Over the course of four games (all losses, but nevertheless), Bryant averaged nearly 22 points on 50.8 percent shooting, well above his season averages.
Tarik Black continued to make the most of his newfound playing time, scoring 8 points and grabbing 7 rebounds while displaying a nice pick-and-roll chemistry with both Marcelo Huertas and D'Angelo Russell. Russell and Jordan Clarkson, however, were outmatched by their Houston counterparts in Patrick Beverley and Harden.
With his team's season on the line, Harden took over in the final period, pouring in 20 points as the game devolved into a three-point shootout. He finished with 40 points and 13 assists to put the game out of hand.
Los Angeles finishes up its road trip tomorrow in Oklahoma City.