Notebook: Grizzlies 107, Suns 105

Posted Dec 5, 2012 8:20 AM

By Matt Miller, for

THE FACTS: The Houston Rockets did not need any special scouting reports or in-depth analysis to know what to do down the stretch against the Los Angeles Lakers. After all, the "Hack a Howard" method is working quite well these days.

Toney Douglas scored a season-high 22 points off the bench, and reserve center Greg Smith netted 13 of his career-high 21 points in the fourth period to go with nine rebounds as the Rockets erased a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to extend their home winning streak to six games with a 107-105 triumph over the Lakers on Tuesday at Toyota Center. James Harden added a double-double of 15 points and 10 boards for Houston (9-8), but the fourth-year guard never hit his stride against an L.A. defense that limited him to 3-for-19 shooting overall.

Kobe Bryant paced the Lakers (8-10) -- who fell to 1-5 on the road and have dropped five of their last seven games -- with 39 points on 31 shot attempts. Dwight Howard recorded a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds, but the so-called Superman had no answer for the Rockets' version of Kryptonite -- intentional fouls. Howard went 5-for-10 at the charity stripe over the final 3:30 of regulation, affording Houston the opportunity to complete its late-game surge.

QUOTABLE: "Why should [coach Mike D'Antoni] take me out [of the game]? ... People are going to say whatever they want to say, but at the end of the day ... the reason we lost was not my free throws. Our defense was not there in the fourth quarter."
-- Lakers' Dwight Howard

THE STAT: Howard's misadventures at the charity stripe were hardly the sole reason L.A. could not hang on to a 16-point second-half advantage. The Rockets grinded through a rough 37.6 percent shooting effort by converting 12 of 23 second-shot opportunities for 29 points. Houston registered an impressive 15-2 edge in second-chance points after halftime to improve to 24-2 in December contests at Toyota Center since 2008.

TURNING POINT: Houston appeared headed toward only its third December home loss in the last five years when the Lakers built a 90-77 lead with 9:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. After the Rockets ripped off a 14-4 run to cut their deficit to 94-91 with 4:40 left to play, Houston went to the "Hack a Howard" strategy. Howard bricked five of his next eight free-throw attempts, allowing the Rockets to continue their game-changing spurt and capture their first lead of the game on a Douglas 3-pointer with 2:32 remaining.

QUOTABLE II: "You have to do what it takes to win ... An intentional foul on Dwight puts a lot of pressure on our defense. We're just standing out there [when we have the ball] for four or five consecutive possessions."
-- Lakers' Kobe Bryant

HOT: Smith was the dominant interior force for Houston in the final period, earning six free-throw attempts (5-for-6), shooting 4-for-4 from the floor and scoring 13 points. The second-year center out of Fresno State also played a pivotal role in holding Howard to only one board over the final 6:11 of regulation.

NOT: The Rockets' starting lineup was outscored by its reserves 59-48. This came after each member of the starting five had poured in at least 10 points in three consecutive home contests.

GOOD MOVE: Rockets acting coach Kelvin Sampson's decision to stick with the hot hands on his bench during the closing minutes paid dividends. With Douglas, Smith and Carlos Delfino on the floor for the entire fourth quarter, the Rockets outscored Los Angeles 34-22 and committed only one turnover. The trio combined for 23 of those 34 fourth-period points.

QUOTABLE III: "Greg [Smith] is just country ox strong. That's just an ox strong kid. ... You can't move him. ... There is a lot to be said about playing the entire 48 minutes and having guys on the bench who you can trust that can come through."
-- Rockets' Kelvin Sampson

BAD MOVE: Howard's misfires at the line took their toll on the Lakers' psyche for the second straight game, as L.A.'s defense allowed the Rockets to control the glass, push the ball up the court and find open shooters in the same manner as the Orlando Magic did during Sunday's late-game meltdown.

NOTABLE: Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who missed Tuesday's game with knee tendinitis, is listed as day-to-day. Gasol said before tipoff that playing Wednesday in New Orleans is "out of the question," and added that he is "not guessing that it's going to be two days, and my knees are going to be all wonderful all of a sudden." Coach D'Antoni said the team plans to rest Gasol for "as long as it takes" for his knees to recover. .... D'Antoni elected to start veteran point guard Chris Duhon over struggling second-year guard Darius Morris, who had been a member of L.A.'s starting lineup since mid-November. ... The Rockets' reserves outscored the Lakers' bench 59-20. ... Howard has shot 39.7 percent (23-for-58) from the free-throw line over his last four games. ... L.A. fell to 1-7 this season when Bryant nets at least 30 points. ... Bryant is only 13 points shy of becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach 30,000 points. ... L.A. forward Metta World Peace needs nine points to become only the sixth player in NBA history to record at least 12,000 points, 4,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals and 1,000 3-point buckets in his career. ... The Lakers dropped to 0-3 this season in games decided by three points or less. ... Houston last reeled off six straight home victories from March 14-April 3, 2011. ... The Rockets improved to 4-1 when they commit fewer turnovers than their opponent. ... Houston has overcome a deficit of at least 10 points in three of its victories ... With 62 points in the second half, the Rockets posted their sixth 60-point half of the season.

UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Wednesday @ New Orleans, Friday @ Oklahoma City, Sunday vs. Utah. For the Rockets, Friday @ San Antonio, Saturday vs. Dallas, Monday vs. San Antonio.