Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 12/5/12
HOUSTON Kobe Bryant spoke calmly and quietly, and he leaned casually against a wall in the locker room. He did not look like a guy who had just kicked somebody's ass, or planned to. This, of course, was Bryant's threat, just a couple of days ago. He said he would "kick everybody's ass" in the Lakers locker room if things didn't change. He said Gasol needed to put "his big boy pants on." He challenged Dwight Howard to change the way he thinks about being sent to the foul line over and over again because opponents expect him to miss. He took the Lakers to Houston Tuesday night, and he put up 31 shots and scored 39 points. Howard went 8-for-16 at the line. Gasol didn't play. And the Lakers committed 19 turnovers, gave up 21 offensive rebounds and let a guy named Greg Smith bang them for 21 points and nine boards. The Lakers lost, 107-105. They are 8-10. "We just gotta play a little better," Bryant said. So what is this, some kind of performance art we're watching? This is the "I'm going to kick everybody's ass" guy in the second act? Is this all just part of the show? And what about Howard Superman, as he has labeled himself and his big-boy pants? Should not Superman be able to handle Greg Smith, who looks and moves like an actual bear? Should not Superman do something heroic? Or at least make his free throws? Or, failing that, acknowledge the failure? "It wasn't our free throws," said Howard, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds. "That wasn't what got them back in the game." Oh no? Ok then, here's what happened: The Lakers led by about 10 points for almost the whole game. They were comfortable enough that Bryant and Howard spent the first half of the fourth quarter on the bench. With 6:11 to play, Carlos Delfino made a 3-pointer that cut the Lakers lead to seven. Bryant and Howard checked in. Down by four with 3:19 left, the Rockets (9-8) began fouling Howard 80 feet from the basket, a strategy which is an insult to Howard and everyone watching, but is nonetheless both legal and effective. Over the course of the next 69 seconds, the Rockets did this Howard five times. He went 5-for-10. During this time, Houston took its first lead, gave it up, then took the lead for good with 1:11 to play. "Our defense was not where it needed to be," Howard said. Well, that too. The defense seemed to have a particularly difficult time being where it needed to be when the ball was in the hands of Howard's man, Smith. The 21-year-old second-year center out of Fresno State did not exactly whip Howard in a head-to-head matchup, but he did benefit from Howard's splintered defensive attention. Every time a Rocket would get into the lane, Howard would step up, Smith would step behind him and end up catching the ball right at the rim. Tuesday was the second time in Smith's career he had scored more than six points. So maybe Howard can be forgiven for losing track of a guy who never scores, but the free throws have put Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni in a mighty fix. The Lakers are paying Howard 19.54 million this year, and it's not to sit on the bench at the end of a close game. And yet for the second game in a row, putting him on the bench might have saved the Lakers. D'Antoni said the people suggesting such a strategy, "have no clue what they're talking about." "You don't do that to a guy," D'Antoni said. "And he made his foul shots." That's precisely half true. Howard made eight foul shots and he missed eight foul shots, and the Lakers lost by two. Houston was happy D'Antoni took the approach he did. Not only because Howard missed half the time, but because every possession that ended with Howard at the free-throw line was a possession Bryant was a bystander. "It gets the ball out of Kobe's hands," Rockets interim coach Kelvin Sampson said. It probably was the only way Houston was going to survive Tuesday night. Bryant, who entered the game 52 points shy of 30,000 for his career, looked like he was headed there in the first quarter, after which he had 14 and the Lakers had an eight-point lead. This, after all, was not even a strong Rockets performance. They only shot 38 percent (to the Lakers' 46 percent). After three quarters, Houston's starting perimeter -- Harden, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin -- was a combined 9-for-37, and the team was 6-for-28 from the 3-point line. That's when Sampson went to his bench. He played Smith over Omer Asik and Toney Douglas in place of Lin, and they ended up combining for 43 points. Yeah, the Lakers were without Steve Nash and Gasol, who are both injured, but what are you going to say when the ass kicking came not from Bryant, and not from Houston's starters, but from Toney Douglas and Greg Smith? What now? "We're in the ballgames," Bryant said. "We've just got to finish them a little better."
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Klay Thompson sets record as Warriors force Game 7

WATCH: Steven Adams makes a monster dunk on Draymond Green

WATCH: Noah Syndergaard tossed after throwing behind Chase Utley

White Sox in talks to acquire James Shields from Padres

NBA player shot and killed after reportedly breaking into apartment


Dodgers send top prospect back to minors after one game

DeRozan: ‘My mindset has always been Toronto’

Will soccer superstar Lionel Messi have to miss the Copa America?

Did you know Peyton Manning was "pretty close" to QBing for Titans?

WATCH: Kevin Love gives this reporter no love in press conference

Three reasons the Penguins are a lock to win the Stanley Cup

WATCH: Edelman screams 'free Brady!' at Boston concert

Six NFL players who will cash out big in final year of contract

Baylor QB Russell's Instagram post about program on return from mission trip

Titans' Walker not friends with rookies until they make team

Lue had vulgar reaction to Blatt firing, urged team to reconsider

Would trading Okafor or Noel make sense for the 76ers?

Why Zlatan Ibrahimovic belongs at Manchester United

Winston lost 18 pounds to deter sophomore slump

Michigan spring break trip to Florida cost nearly $350,000

Warriors' Curry could careless about Westbrook's opinions

Christian Hackenberg: A Jet in repair

Cowboys cool on trading running backs, especially Ezekiel Elliott

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

How expanded instant replay has hurt the NBA

Best regular-season NBA teams not to win a championship

Every time an NBA team came back from a 3-1 deficit (and what it means for the Warriors)

How disallowed goals can change the course of NHL games

The five most disappointing MLB teams this season

QUIZ: Identify these NHL Hall of Famers by their nicknames

QUIZ: Name every winner of the Belmont Stakes since 1867

Sniping quotes highlight NHL conference finals animosity

QUIZ: Name every NBA franchise's original incarnation

The 15 biggest playoff upsets in NBA history

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker