The Lakers struggled all night long on the defensive side of the ball, but LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook took turns carrying the offense as L.A. beat the Houston Rockets, 119-117, at home for the second time in three nights to improve to 5-3 on the season.
LeBron brought it home with 14 points in the fourth quarter, bullying Houston inside and finally getting some of his signature turnaround fadeaway jumpers to fall. He finished the game with 30 points, 4 rebounds and 10 assists.
One game after the Lakers’ defense gave them reason for optimism, holding the Rockets to 85 points, L.A. looked like a completely different squad on that side of the ball on Tuesday. Houston shot 53.3% from the field and 39% from three-point range and had surpassed their point total from Sunday night well before the end of the third quarter.
Christian Wood and Jae’Sean Tate combined for 46 points, taking advantage of a Lakers frontcourt missing key defenders in Dwight Howard — still out with a neck injury — and Trevor Ariza, who continues to rehab from ankle surgery.
Also at the end of the third quarter, though, Westbrook and Davis dragged the Lakers back into the game on offense, dominating the undersized Rockets in the paint to help the Lakers close the quarter on an 18-10 run and trim down a double-digit deficit. The Lakers then started to pull away in the fourth, going up by as much as eight. However, Rockets rookie and No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green hit two long-range threes to bring Houston back within one.
Malik Monk was intentionally fouled on the next possession, and only made one of two free throws, giving the Rockets a chance to tie or win the game the next time down the floor. Fortunately for the home crowd, though, Kevin Porter Jr. missed a fairly decent look from three-point range that would have given him a buzzer-beating game-winner.
Davis and Westbrook also each had 27 points, making up for what had also been a rough shooting night for them on Sunday. Carmelo Anthony also continued his white-hot shooting at Staples Center with 15 points, and went 3-5 from three-point range.
The Lakers also had several gripes with the officiating throughout the game, as Frank Vogel, Kent Bazemore and Carmelo Anthony all received technical fouls early on. The referees also made a head-scratching call when they deducted two points from the Lakers late in the fourth quarter after realizing that Kent Bazemore shot (and made) two free throws before the team was in the bonus. It didn’t ultimately matter, but it will be interesting to see the Last Two Minute Report on this game tomorrow.
After an off day on Wednesday, the Lakers will look to extend their three-game winning streak and avenge last week’s blown 21-point lead in Oklahoma City when they host the Thunder on Thursday. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.