From Land O’ Lakers: Do not be fooled by the final score. In this case, objects in mirror were not nearly as close as they appeared. Not after the first 12 minutes of play, at least. In a lot of ways, the first quarter of Saturday night’s game could easily have been the fifth of Friday’s debacle in Oklahoma City. The Lakers turned the ball over five times leading to eight Rockets points, allowed easy buckets inside, and ignored too many shooters on the perimeter. After one, the Rockets led 34-27, behind despite shooting well over 50 percent from the floor. From there, though, the Lakers raised their level far to high for the wee Rockets to reach. (Congratulations to those who saw the height joke coming.) Over the first six minutes of the second quarter, the Lakers scraped their way back into the game, erasing Houston’s lead. Over the final six minutes, they dropped the hammer, outscoring the Rockets 20-2, the 20 coming unanswered. It was 360 seconds of total domination.
From the Los Angeles Times: The Lakers had a fairly easy time beating the Houston Rockets. No, really. Unlike last season’s playoffs, or the Lakers’ return trip to Houston earlier this season, Saturday was a relative breeze for the Lakers, who beat an undermanned Rockets team, 109-101, at Toyota Center. Pau Gasol had a season-high 30 points, Kobe Bryant had a near-triple-double (17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists) and the Lakers improved to 2-1 on their five-game trip after a deplorable outing the previous night in Oklahoma City. The Lakers’ first quarter was poor and their fourth quarter wasn’t great, but they had a dominant middle two quarters, good enough to win in a city that had troubled them in recent trips. They outscored Houston, 35-11, in the second quarter alone. Gasol was solid, making 11 of 17 shots and eight of nine free throws and blocking four shots.
From the Los Angeles Register: he dust settled just the way the Lakers said it would, with a strong bounce-back effort. Windswept in Oklahoma the night before, the Lakers moved on and smoothly handled the Houston Rockets, 109-101, on Saturday night. At the crux of it was Pau Gasol, who had suggested the Lakers would respond well from trailing Oklahoma City by 33 points Friday night. Gasol helped make sure with a season-high 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting, eight rebounds and four blocks. “We tried to be aggressive and bounce back,” Gasol said. Gasol was facing the Rockets for the first time this season, having missed all three previous games because of hamstring injuries. The Lakers went 2-1 in those games. The Lakers entered the game 42-13 when Gasol plays, beating teams by an average of 7.1 points. It was more of the same Saturday, when DJ Mbenga pitched in with some helpful minutes that couldn’t go to injured center Andrew Bynum, whom the Lakers hope will return in a week.
From the Los Angeles Daily News: In the end, it might have been just an aberration, a one-game letdown that was a consequence of an 82-game slog through the regular season. Twenty-four hours later, the Lakers played like champs again instead of like chumps. They defeated an inferior, battered and bruised team with relative ease. They ran faster, jumped higher, passed sharper, shot better and made better decisions with the ball. They had more energy and their defense was improved. Buoyed by an electric run to end the half, the Lakers defeated the undersized and undermanned Houston Rockets 109-101 on Saturday night at the Toyota Center. They rebounded smartly from a thrashing Friday by the Oklahoma City Thunder. “We didn’t worry about (Friday) night,” Lamar Odom said, shrugging after the Lakers won for the eighth time in nine games. “It was a beating, but we had to be prepared for (Saturday night), and we were prepared.”
From Silver Screen and Roll: The Lakers started this one sluggish. They gave up 34 points in the 1st Quarter and it looked liked I was going to start looking for that ticket to New Orleans, because Aaron Brooks came out hot. He scored 12 points in the 1st, and Jermaine Taylor added another 10. Not the boxer, in case your wondering, but he might’ve scored another 6 the way it as looking. The Lakers had energy, but the defense lacking and t looked like it might be another long night. Then the Lakers really woke up. Probably remembering how much they stunk last night, they scored 35 points in the 2nd while only letting up 11, highlighted by a pretty ridiculous 20-0 run in the last six minutes of the half, where Houston missed 10 straight shots. Houston went from hot start to merely missing awful shots. The Lakers rode Pau and Fish actually dropped some buckets, amazingly -puts shotgun back in case-. To put into perspective how much the Lakers sucked the night before, realize that the Lakers surpassed their point total against Oklahoma less than halfway into the third.
From the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets did enjoy themselves for a while. Jermaine Taylor got his first NBA start, drained a few 3s and did not get toasted by Kobe Bryant. The Rockets forced the Lakers into some missed shots, got out on the fast break and took a nine-point lead. But they also got the Lakers’ attention. Big mistake. When the Lakers clamped down defensively, the Rockets’ offense crumbled. The Rockets had not been stopping the Lakers much anyway, so the Lakers rode their retort to the Rockets’ fast start to a 20-0 second-quarter run and cruised to a 109-101 win Saturday night before 18,583 at Toyota Center, the largest crowd in Rockets history. “I got the sense the whole game,” the Rockets’ Luis Scola said, “they were controlling the game.” The Rockets’ four-game losing streak is their longest of the season and dropped their record to .500 for the first time since the second game of the season. But of the four losses, this was their best, if only because there was a stretch in which they did play well. But with six minutes left in the first half, the Lakers dropped a defensive anvil on a Rockets offense that had begun to crack.
From The Dream Shake: Well, that’s four in a row. Time to start looking for moral victories, as actual victories have been scarce of late. But while the losing is disappointing, there is a lot to be happy about as a Rockets fan. What’s to be happy about? I’m thrilled you asked, Mr. Strawman. 1. Rockets rookies played 72 minutes in tonight’s contest. Jermaine Taylor played against arguably the best SG in the NBA. He notched 15pts, 5rbs, 3asts, 1stl in 30 minutes of game action. Sometimes he drove the lane and looked lost, sometimes he couldn’t handle his defensive assignment, but very few can. Mostly he played like he belonged in the NBA. Jordan Hill, still on a sore ankle, still the tallest usable Rocket, got 8pts and 6rbs. He drew an assignment against the indispensable Laker, Pau Gasol. At times the grubby Catalan made Hill look like a rookie, but guess what? Hill did the same to Pau a couple of times. Hill is an NBA player, too.
From The Lakers Nation: Midway into the five game road trip, the Lakers have a record of 2-1, and have two more games on Monday and Wednesday. The Lakers came into the road trip on fire, winning six straight games and looking to extend their streak at San Antonio. The San Antonio Spurs came into last Wednesday’s game with the sixth seed at 42-27. The Lakers were very familiar with the Spurs and could possible meet them in the Playoffs this season. “We’re relatively familiar with San Antonio,” Jackson said. “They played us in the playoffs a year ago. We have a rivalry that goes back a long ways. We have some sense of who they are and how they play.” Even with All-Star guard Tony Parker out, the Spurs were still very talented, and with George Hill leading the point, the Spurs were looking for an upset. The game was aggressive off the bat, and in the first quarter Lamar Odom put in 10 while Hill had 14 on 5-7 shooting. The Lakers were outscored in both of the opening quarters and were down 48-41 at the half. The Spurs had all the momentum going into the third, but the Lakers made adjustment and came out firing.
From Silver Screen and Roll: I’ve been riding Derek Fisher pretty hard lately. I take no pleasure in continuing to point out the obvious flaws in his game. It’s not my idea of a good time to break down statistically how bad he is on both sides of the ball. It’s simply part of the job description. In analyzing why this Los Angeles Lakers team is failing to live up to expectations, Derek Fisher is a key element. Not the only element, or even the most important one. But, the continued degradation of his skills is certainly playing a vital role in helping this team to appear mortal. Or so I think. But hey, I’m an open minded kind of guy. So I’ve decided to give Derek a chance to prove me wrong. Tonight, I give Fisher the chance to show me all of the “unseen” things he does to help the team. Whenever Fisher is on the court, I will literally watch him the entire time. I admit, I’ve given Fish a tough assignment, as tonight’s game pairs him with the uber quick Aaron Brooks, who is no stranger to leaving Fisher in his dust. But, lets see what intangibles the naked eye can spot when it’s trying really hard to see them.
From Pro Basketball Talk: Take a look at our NBA’s Race to the Playoffs. Go on. Acquaint yourself. It’s a mess. Particularly the Western Conference. There are seven teams that could end up in the 8th spot, staring down the Lakers (we’re tossing out the Grizzlies, love them as I do. No way anyone’s going in the tank like they need them to). Denver, Dallas, Utah, Phoenix, San Antonio, OKC, Portland. Any one of them could wind up under the crosshairs of the defending champions. One of the things Greg Popovich has talked about extensively is the imperative of avoiding that eighth seed, of not ending up in a tussle with LA in the first round. It’s a fairly easy idea. Try and avoid the best team as long as possible, hope someone else does the dirty work for you, hope they get tired, hope they get banged up, go as far as you can, get as much playoff money as you can, stay away from the big, bad Lakers. And pardon me if I sound like Owen Wilson in The Royal Tenenbaums (“What this book presupposes is… ‘What if he didn’t?’”), but I do keep having the same thought. Isn’t it better to get LA sooner rather than later?
From the Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog: Looking ahead to the remaining schedule, Lakers center Andrew Bynum shared two weeks ago that the team should aim to end the regular season with 60 victories. Back then, the Lakers were just beginning what would be a seven-game winning streak and the team had brainstormed ways to build momentum to ensure sharpness entering the postseason. Naturally, winning came to mind. Lakers forward Ron Artest chalked an even more ambitious goal, trying to win out all the remaining games. Even if that didn’t happen, the Lakers (54-19) are well within that 60-win plateau with nine games remaining. Of course, even the Lakers’ recent six-game winning streak was met with justifiable shrugs among the team and media mainly because five of the opponents were sub.-500 teams and none of the wins featured sharp play.
From the Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog: Has Phil Jackson lost control of the Lakers? Uh, no. The Lakers coach opined after Friday’s lopsided loss in Oklahoma City that the way players responded to his coaching would factor into his decision whether to return next season. Lamar Odom laughed at the notion that Jackson had somehow lost the players. “I don’t think that’s the case