Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/4/12
HOUSTON -- In complete control for the majority of their opener of a three-game road trip, the Lakers collapsed down the stretch and watched the Houston Rockets swipe an improbable 107-105 victory at Toyota Center on Tuesday night. The Rockets (9-8) trailed by as many as 17 and didn't take their first lead until Toney Douglas drilled a corner 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining. That basket pushed the Rockets ahead 100-99, and while the Lakers pulled ahead on a pair of Dwight Howard free throws 21 seconds later, their momentum was squandered by another stretch of lackluster play. Howard missed half of his 10 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter as the Rockets purposely fouled him as part of their rallying strategy. The Lakers (8-10) made one basket following a Kobe Bryant hook shot with 3:38 left: a Bryant 3-pointer with just 13.3 seconds to play. The Lakers had lost three of their last four games and are 3-5 since Mike D'Antoni took over as coach. Reserves Greg Smith (21 points, nine rebounds), Carlos Delfino and Douglas carried the weight for the Rockets, who got 15 points on 3-for-19 shooting from James Harden. Delfino and Douglas combined for 37 points on 14-for-32 shooting to offset the Rockets' backcourt issues. Bryant paced the Lakers with 39 points. Howard added 16 points and 12 boards. Buoyed by their bench throughout, the Rockets rode their reserves to an unexpected, white-knuckle finish. With the Lakers maintaining a double-digit lead for most of the second half the Rockets made their run before Bryant and Howard re-entered with just over six minutes left. Behind Greg Smith, Delfino and Toney Douglas, the Rockets fashioned an 11-2 run before Bryant drilled a jumper. But by that juncture the Lakers' lead was down to 94-88, leading to a climactic end. With Pau Gasol sidelined due to tendinitis in both knees, Bryant took it upon himself to fill the scoring void by hoisting 11 shots in 12 first-quarter minutes. Bryant connected on five of those attempts and added four free throws to compile 14 points and serve as the catalyst for Los Angeles, which shot 50 percent en route to a 30-point period. Conversely, the Rockets struggled to maintain the scoring clip they set during their five-game home winning streak. Whereas Bryant entered the evening leading the NBA in scoring at 27.3 points per game, Harden was fifth at 24.1 points per game. But Harden missed six of seven shots in the first quarter, emblematic of team-wide woes. With Jeremy Lin saddled by early foul trouble, the Rockets were fortunate that his backup, Douglas, supplied a hot hand off the bench. Douglas helped whittle a 13-point deficit to 30-22 by the close of the first quarter, and then he scored the Rockets' opening five points of the second. He closed the half with 14 points but was alone on the team in terms of offensive efficiency. Harden and Lin combined to shoot 2-for-15 before the break. Bryant posted 21 first-half points via an active 18 shots. Antawn Jamison, who started in place of Gasol, scored 12 points and four rebounds by the intermission. The Lakers led by as many as 17 points before settling for a 58-45 halftime lead borne of 50 percent shooting. The Rockets' previous marksmanship from behind the arc was absent, as they misfired on 17 of 21 3-pointers in the opening half. NOTES: Gasol will be out indefinitely. He started the first 17 games this season, posting averages of 12.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. ... Bryant opened play 52 points shy of becoming the fifth player in NBA history to score 30,000 for his career. Incidentally, Bryant owns the most 50-point performances ever registered against the Rockets, three.
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