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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Rockets on a three-game losing streak after loss to Lakers

Posted: January 19, 2020 -- 7:41 a.m. CT

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets raced past the Los Angeles Lakers for most of the first half; however, a quick spurt by the Lakers to end first half set the tone for the second half which resulted in a 124-115 Lakers' win. Houston has lost three straight for the second time this season and consecutive home games for the second time in 2019-20.

"We ran them the first half," Mike D'Antoni, Rockets Head Coach said after the game. "And, they upped their pace in the second half and ran us."

Houston guard Russell Westbrook scored 10 points (5 of 6 field goal shooting) in the first quarter to guide the team to a 34-27 lead by the end of the first period. The Rockets made 12 of 23 shots in the quarter and limited the Lakers to 10 of 26 field goal shooting.

The Lakers chipped away at Houston's lead for much of the second quarter and pulled within 4 points twice; but, Houston enjoyed its largest lead of the quarter (63-52) when P.J. Tucker swished a corner three-pointer with 1:42 remaining in the half to force a Lakers' timeout.

After the timeout, the Lakers finished the half with a 7-2 run to cut Houston's lead to 65-59 at halftime.

"I thought the first half – we played it really well," D'Antoni remarked. "We should've probably been up 10 or 12."

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The third quarter was a disaster for the Rockets. Houston made just 6 of 28 field goal attempts including just 1 for 11 three-point shots while the Lakers made 10 of 18 from the floor. Houston's six point halftime lead turned into a 91-82 deficit after three periods.

"The third quarter was a tough one and that's (what) kind of determined the game," D'Antoni said.

LA's Kyle Kuzma sank a three-point shot to begin the scoring in the fourth quarter; but, Westbrook answered with a layup and a free throw to return Houston's deficit to 9 (94-85). The Lakers answered with a 10-3 run to lead 104-88. The Rockets trailed 110-94 after Kuzma grabbed a defensive rebound on one end then an offensive rebound and scored a layup on the other end.

D'Antoni called timeout. Houston responded with a 13-6 spurt to get within 9 points with 3:07 remaining; however, LeBron James sliced up the Rockets' defense and dished to a wide open Danny Green for a three-point basket in the corner. Next, after Westbrook scored a driving layup, LeBron swished a three-pointer for a 122-108 Lakers' lead with 2:19 remaining.

The Rockets scored seven straight points to get within 7 with 32.1 seconds on the game clock; however, Houston ran out of time and have now lost three in a row and 4 of 5.

Houston (26-15) had as many turnovers (20) as assists. The Rockets have committed 20+ turnovers six times this season after doing so five times in 2018-19. Houston has committed 16 or more turnovers in three of the past four games after doing so twice the 14 games prior.

"We're going through a tough time obviously," James Harden said in the locker room after the game. "It happens to I think every team throughout the course of the year, but tough times don't last long, especially for teams that are built for it. So we just got to continue to fight through it, find a way to continue to get better, keep grinding through moments like these. For us, it doesn't get any easier. We have some tough opponents coming up, so we're battle tested right now."

Harden scored 34 points in the game. The Rockets fall to 21-6 when he scores 34 or more points this season (14-2 with 40+).

After the game, Westbrook mentioned the Rockets have to remain positive.

"We got to stay positive," Westbrook acknowledged. "Like I said the other day, in adversity what are you going to do? You got to look at yourself – stay locked in. It’s a part of the season, it happens. As a unit, as team we got to stay together and figure out the best way to put our best foot forward."

P.J. Tucker doesn't believe the Rockets' losing streak is due to one particular issue. Tucker also echoed Westbrook's comments about the need to maintain positivity.

"I don't know if it's just one issue, it's a long season," Tucker said. "You go through ups and downs. It's just the spirit – the spirit to fight when things start going a little wrong. It's that spirit for everybody from top to bottom when you're playing. You're not, to have the energy to push the next guy along. A couple of bad calls, (a couple of) bad plays. Turned the ball over. Okay cool. Next play, so what? What's next? To me, that's what it's all about. No matter what, just keeping that positive energy."

Houston's next game is Monday, January 20, at home at 4 p.m., versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.


The Lakers scored a Rockets opponent season-high 24 second chance points. Houston has allowed 20 plus second chance points in four of the past nine games after doing so once over the first 32 games of the season.

Westbrook scored a game-high 35 points on 15-of-23 shooting. Houston has lost the past three games in which he has shot 50.0% or better after winning 10 of the first 11. Westbrook has scored 30+ points in each of his past four games played, marking the longest streak by a Rocket besides James Harden since a six-game span by Tracy McGrady from December 29, 2006 to January 8, 2007. Westbrook has also scored 20+ points in each of his past 16 games played, tying for the longest streak by a Rocket besides Harden since a 24-game span by Hakeem Olajuwon from January 24 to March 13, 1995. Tonight marked the eight time Westbrook has led the Rockets in scoring this season.

LeBron James had a team-high 31 points with a game-high 12 assists. He has recorded 30+ points and 10+ assists eight times this season which is already tied for the second-highest single season total of his career (10 times in 2017-18).

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