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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 lose to Lakers, 120-102
POSTED: January 10, 2021 -- 11:34 p.m. CT
HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets lost 120-102 to the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday night. Houston's last lead of the game was 3-2. The Lakers took a 4-3 lead and never looked back.
"We just weren't very good," Rockets guard James Harden mentioned after the game.
LA's Anthony Davis put the Lakers (8-3) ahead for good with a step back jumper at the 9:06 mark of the first quarter. Davis made his first 9 field goal attempts in the game.
The Rockets (3-5) trailed 18-6 before James Harden scored six straight points. Harden scored 10 of Houston's 15 points as part of a 15-7 spurt to cut Houston's deficit to 25-21 at the end of the first quarter.
Tempers flared with 2:15 remaining in the opening quarter. LA forward Markieff Morris elbowed Houston rookie Jae'Sean Tate. Morris' elbow sent Tate to the court. DeMarcus Cousins defended Tate with a shove to Morris. Morris didn't like being shoved and tried to go after Cousins. Tried. Cousins walked away while Morris continued trying to get to Cousins.
Cooler heads prevailed as the refs took a look at the replay monitor. After checking the monitor, the refs called a Flagrant 1 foul on Morris and 1 tech on Morris and 1 tech on Cousins. Morris was ejected from the ball game.
Forty-six seconds into the second quarter, Cousins was whistled for a Flagrant 2 foul against LA's LeBron James. Houston trailed 25-23 at the time of Cousins' ejection. John Wall made a three-point basket to cut LA's lead to 29-28 with 10:25 on the clock.
The Lakers answered with 9 straight points to take a 38-28 lead. Wall scored 4 in a row; but, the Lakers blitzed the Rockets with a 17-4 run for a 55-36 lead with 3:58 til halftime. Houston's deficit grew to as large as 20 (64-44).
The Rockets trailed 65-46 at halftime. The Lakers outscored the Rockets 13-2 in fast break points in the first half.
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The Lakers hit the Rockets with an 11-3 surge to begin the third quarter. Houston trailed 76-49 with 9:15 remaining in the third quarter. However, Houston answered with a 23-7 run to climb within 11 (83-72) 1:58 remaining in the third.
Houston's Christian Wood scored 10 points in the third quarter to lead the Rockets. Houston trailed 88-75 after three quarters.
The Lakers scored the first 4 points of the fourth quarter and outscored Houston 10-4 the first three minutes to lead 98-79 with 9:05 on the game clock. Houston did not get closer than 15 points the rest of the game.
The Lakers scored 11 points off 7 Houston turnovers in the fourth period. Houston finished the game with a season-high 21 turnovers; and, the Lakers capitalized on the turnovers scoring 30 points. The Rockets were 4-5 when having 20 or more turnovers last season.
"It's frustrating the way we played," Christian Wood commented after the game.
Houston was outscored 32-7 in fast break points. Houston allowed an average of just 10 fast break points the previous four games. The Lakers scored numerous times on leak outs (snow birds) after missed Rockets' field goal attempts.
"The transition defense was not good at all," Rockets Head Coach Stephen Silas after the game.
The Rockets will face the Lakers again this Tuesday, January 12, at 7 p.m. Central Time.
James Harden had 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting. The Rockets are 0-3 when he shoots 50.0% or better this season after going 21-5 when he did so in 2019-20. Harden has taken 15 or fewer shots in three straight games for the first time since Jan. 20 to Jan. 23, 2017.
Christian Wood scored 17 of his team-high 23 points in the second half. C-Wood has scored 20 plus points in all seven of his games played this season. The last Rocket besides Harden to have 20 or more points in each of his first seven games played in a season was Hakeem Olajuwon in 1993-94; Harden did it in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
John Wall had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. The last time he had double-digit boards was for Washington on Dec. 17, 2017. Wall shot 2-of-4 from 3-point range tonight and is shooting 5-of-8 over the past two games after shooting 5-of-22 his first four games played.
Anthony Davis had a game-high 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting. It is the second time he has scored 25+ points while shooting 75.0% or better as a Laker (Dec. 4, 2019 at Utah). AD is averaging 25.0 ppg on 69.0% shooting over his past two games played.
LeBron James had 18 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in the game. It's only the second time this season LeBron has scored below 20 points in a game. James is on pace for his 11th season averaging at least 20.0 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game and 7.0 assists per game. No other player has more than six seasons doing so in NBA history (Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook).
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