With about 7:20 left to play in the fourth quarter, Chris Duhon got into the lane and fed Jordan Hill, who threw down a dunk to extend the Lakers lead to 11 points. The Lakers next two possession ended with a missed Duhon three pointer and a Duhon turnover. Toney Douglass followed those possessions with a layup and a three pointer — cutting the Lakers lead to seven points.
Kobe and Dwight check in for Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill. Still, the Lakers offense can’t get anything going. Antawn Jamison turns the ball over that leads to a Greg Smith layup and a foul. He hits the free throw to cut the Lakers lead down to four. Kobe hits a jumper, extending the lead back up to six, but on the ensuing possession, James Harden — who was having an awful game — find a way to get behind the Lakers defense unnoticed and is given the ball at the rim for an easy bucket. Lead back down to four.
On the Lakers next possession, Ron throws the ball away and Duhon fouls Harden on the other end. Harden makes one of two and cuts the Lakers lead down to three points. Over the next few possessions, Kobe misses a long two, gets to the line and makes one of two free throws, and makes a sweeping layup in transition, pushing the Lakers lead back up to six. The Rockets’ Smith gets back to the free throw line, knocks down both, and then the Hack-a-Howard strategy ensues.
The Lakers next five possessions saw Dwight Howard at the free throw line. In those five possessions, the Lakers yielded five points and gave up seven to the Rockets — then immediately gave up a Smith layup on the Rockets very next possession, completely eliminating the Lakers 11-point lead in just over five minutes of play.
The rest of the game saw Kobe taking shot-after-shot and the Rockets making free throw after free throw. Kobe hit a three with the Lakers down four, but his efforts down the stretch — and really for the whole game — were futile as the Rockets would hold on to a two-point margin.
Despite outplaying the Rockets for 3.5 quarters, the Lakers lose their fifth game in their last seven contests. Furthermore, the Lakers have now given up 73 points in the fourth quarter of their last two costing them wins in two games they could have easily have won with better execution down the stretch. Unlike the game against Orlando, turnovers and defensive rebounding were a huge problem tonight. The Lakers gave up 21 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over, which is essentially 40 extra possessions for the Rockets.
On the plus side, Duhon had a decent game starting at the point. He was able to effectively get into the paint a few times to find guys for open looks and had a few nice entry passes to Dwight that led to easy buckets. Duhon had seven assists to go along with six points and five rebounds.
Jamison also had a nice night for his first start of the year. He shot six-for-11 from the field with 15 points and nine rebounds. He continued his hot shooting from behind the arc hitting three of four from long range. Jordan Hill also had a double-double as well with nine points and nine rebounds off the bench after not seeing the floor at all in the game against Orlando.
The Lakers as a whole seemed to play with a lot more energy on the night, which was a positive after watching the lethargic fest against Orlando, but still, this team couldn’t leave the arena with a win. The Lakers’ didn’t see any new problems tonight, but they haven’t found a way to remedy what they already know is wrong and another tally has been added to the loss column.