Gameday: Lakers 108, Rockets 99

GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Houston Rockets 25 21 29 24 99
Play by Play Los Angeles Lakers 31 19 26 32 108


Kobe scores 37, Lakers hold off Rockets 108-99

By GREG BEACHAM

Posted Jan 03 2012 11:13PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) Andrew Bynum is acutely aware how many Lakers fans spent the offseason coveting Dwight Howard.

Judging by his first three games of the season, Bynum seems determined to prove to every basketball fan in Los Angeles that this team already has a star center.

Kobe Bryant scored 37 points, Bynum had 21 points and 22 rebounds in the first 20-20 game of his career, and the Lakers beat the Houston Rockets 108-99 Tuesday night for their fourth victory in five games.

With healthy knees and plenty of energy after a four-game season-opening suspension, Bynum gave yet another dominant low-post performance. He barely missed his career-high of 23 rebounds in his second career 20-rebound game, playing a team-high 38 minutes.

"I think I'm getting a lot more touches, so it's easier to be confident," said Bynum, who's averaging 22.7 points and 17 rebounds in his first three games. "Before the practices every day, I'm putting in work, so it's paying off."

Although Bynum has been increasingly outstanding when healthy in the past two years, he turned up in multiple trade rumors during the offseason, most surrounding Orlando's All-Star center. After several years of trade speculation, Bynum insists he's immune to it - and it's reflected in his current play.

"We all know the amount of talent he has, and he's really worked on it," Bryant said of Bynum. "The thing that I like about him is that he has an engine inside of him, and he wants to dominate. He has ambition to be great."

The Lakers also got 14 points from fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol, who was nearly traded to the Rockets last month in a three-team deal for Chris Paul. Bynum and Gasol patrolled the paint on defense and repeatedly beat Houston inside, combining for 17 points in the second half.

"It's not just tonight, but the way he's played these three games," Gasol said of Bynum. "He's been really aggressive, really decisive, and just pursuing every ball. I'm glad to see him with this level of intensity and energy, because it takes desire and will."

What's the best part about Bynum's dominance to Lakers coach Mike Brown? The big guy still isn't in game shape.

"He's still working on his conditioning," Brown said. "His conditioning is getting a little better. If he can get it to a point where it's great, oh my gosh."

The Lakers survived a tight fourth quarter with Bryant's brilliance and tough defense, holding the Rockets without a field goal for just under 6 minutes. Kobe scored seven consecutive points down the stretch of the Lakers' third straight win over the Rockets at home.

Kyle Lowry scored 22 points and Luis Scola added 20 for the Rockets, who opened a three-game trip with their eighth loss in 11 road games against the Lakers. Kevin Martin had 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting, missing seven of his eight 3-point attempts.

"We played an outstanding game all the way to the fourth quarter," Scola said. "Towards the end, we missed some shots that we usually make, and they made some tough shots. But we were kind of expecting that, because Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are big players. Bynum is a tough center to play against. He's pretty big and athletic, and he looks like he's very focused. He got a lot of rebounds and had a good game."

Rockets swingman Courtney Lee had to be helped off the court with 10:40 to play after he collapsed in obvious pain from his right leg on a noncontact play in front of the Lakers' bench. Lee, who scored nine points, couldn't put weight on the same leg that bothered him with cramps during training camp.

After the game, Lee said the nasty-looking injury was only a strained calf muscle.

"I have no idea what happened," Lee said. "I went to the hole, got ready to run back and then my leg just buckled and I went down. I didn't feel anything at the time, so I didn't know what it was. So I tried to get back up run again, and I couldn't."

The Lakers were smooth down the stretch in their seventh game in 10 days, matching Oklahoma City for the NBA's busiest early-season schedule.

Houston scored six straight points to trim Los Angeles' lead to 93-89 with 3:54 to play, but Bryant hit a jumper and converted a three-point play on consecutive possessions before willing home a fallaway jumper with 1:59 left, putting the Lakers ahead by 11.

"We fought back a couple of times and hung around, but Kobe making a couple of those turnaround fadeaways, and those are tough shots to defend," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "We were trying to get our guys to come over and be more aggressive, but we haven't yet gotten to the point where we're trusting everybody on defense to come over. It's still a process."

NOTES: Lakers F Josh McRoberts sat out with a sprained left big toe. ... Fans near courtside included Ashton Kutcher, Alex Rodriguez, Torrie Wilson, Cindy Crawford, Rande Gerber, Tom Petty and Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio.






View More Photos


Points Bryant 37, 14-29 FG
Rebounds Bynum 22, 6 OFF 16 DEF
Assists Fisher 7
Steals Murphy/Barnes 1
Blocks Bynum 3


POSTGAME QUOTES



Mike Brown:
On how the defense helped them win tonight:

“I thought our second unit did a heck of a job for us. I think it was towards the end of the 3rd [quarter] beginning of the 4th [quarter] defensively they came out and they gave us energy in the second half because obviously it was nip and tuck throughout most of the game and then our second unit came in and I thought they brought us energy defensively.”

On Andrew Bynum’s conditioning:

“He was very productive in the thirty-eight minutes he played. His conditioning is getting a little better and if he can ever get it to a point where it’s great…oh my gosh.”




Kobe Bryant:
On comfort level when shooting:

“At times I went back to my original shot and followed all the way through with the ball and I got some pain and the ball tended to go short. But all in all I feel pretty good.”

On Andrew Bynum’s game so far this season:

“We all know the amount of talent that he has and he’s really worked on it. The thing that I like about him is that he has an engine inside of him and he wants to do well, he wants to dominate. He has ambition to be great. I think that’s the biggest positive about him aside from all of the physical attributes.”



Andrew Bynum:
On his improvement so far this season:

“I think I’m getting a lot more touches so it’s easier to be confident. And before the practices every day I’m putting in work, so it’s paying off.”

On their next game against the Trailblazers in Portland:

"I think their home crowd just gives them a lot, a lot of energy, and they go out and they run up and down. They beat us in transitions every year, and that’s our biggest weakness, is transitions. I think we do well with them when they come here and we do poorly out there, but we need to change that around. So, we’re going to try and do it.”



Pau Gasol:
On Andrew Bynum’s game tonight:

“It’s not just tonight but the way he’s played these three games. He’s been really aggressive and really decisive and just pursuing every ball pretty much. I’m glad to see him with this level of intensity and energy and desire because it takes desire and will.”




Kevin McHale:
On defending the Lakers big men:

“We wanted to come down there and dig try to push them out of the paint and limit their touches down there. They made shots and got over us.”

On the end of the game:

“We fought back a few times. Kobe hit a few turn around fadeaways and those are tough shots to defend. We tried to get him to come through some more traffic but they loaded up the weak side. All four guys are standing over there and we’re trying to get our guys to come over and be more aggressive. We haven’t yet gotten to the point where we’re trusting everybody on our defense. It’s still a process.”



Kyle Lowry:
On defensive strategy against Gasol and Bynum:

"You just have to box them out and get them out of the lane. They’re big and they were physical in the paint.”

On trying to find offense against two bigs in Gasol and Bynum:

“We shot a lot of jump shots tonight, but they’re shots we can live with. We got good shooters and we have guys that can make shots, but we just missed them. Even with their big men in there, we played them even, but in the fourth quarter, they made some tough shots.”



Courtney Lee:
On what was difference in game:

“Their size --- they kept pounding it down low --- and we had a couple guys in foul trouble. They made shots and Gasol and Bynum played big down low.”

On Bynum’s play tonight:

“He’s big and he’s very focused. He had a great game and grabbed a lot of rebounds.”






Rockets-Lakers Preview

By KATE HEDLIN

Posted Jan 02 2012 8:27PM

A torn ligament in his right wrist may be to blame for Kobe Bryant's shooting struggles the last two games, but the Los Angeles Lakers star doesn't plan on altering his style of play.

Bryant and the Lakers look to win their fourth straight home game Tuesday night when they host the Houston Rockets.

After averaging 27.8 points and shooting 48.1 percent in Los Angeles' first four contests, Bryant struggled in the Lakers' home-and-home split with Denver over the weekend, averaging 16.5 points on 26.1 percent shooting.

Bryant became the sixth player in NBA history to score 28,000 points in Sunday's 99-90 road loss to the Nuggets, but it was an otherwise disappointing performance. He shot 6 of 28, finished with 16 points and had six turnovers, but refused to apologize for taking so many shots.

"I do what I do," Bryant, who tore the ligament in his wrist during the preseason, said Monday. "If guys are open, I kick it to them, if they're not, I shoot it. I play my game."

Coach Mike Brown expressed no problems with the shot selection, only praising Bryant's toughness.

"He's got to continue to figure out how to stay in rhythm or how to get in rhythm with that wrist. He might not say it, but try to hold a microphone with a torn ligament, let alone shoot it and make sure you get a follow through," Brown said. "That's a bear. That's a bear."

Playing for the fourth time in six nights could put additional strain on Bryant's wrist, but he did average 28.7 points per game against Houston in 2010-11, as the Lakers (3-3) took two of three in the season series.

Houston (2-2) has alternated home wins with road losses to open the season, most recently defeating Atlanta 95-84 on Saturday. Kevin Martin scored 27 points and Kyle Lowry had a career-high 18 assists for the Rockets, who led from start to finish.

Houston has allowed 108.5 points per game in road losses to Orlando and Memphis, but has limited the opposition to an average of 84.5 points in its two home victories.

"I think so far in the season, we've been showing two faces," said forward Luis Scola, who had a season-high 21 points against the Hawks. "In the two home games we've won ... we focused on defense ... In the two games we played on the road, we didn't play that way, that's why we won those two games and that's why we lost the other two."

Houston will need to perform better away from home as it opens a three-game trip with back-to-back games at Staples Center. The Rockets will take on the Clippers on Wednesday before opening a home-and-home series with Oklahoma City on Friday.

Houston will also be looking for Martin to stay hot. After shooting 1 of 10 and finishing with four points in a season-opening loss to Orlando, he's averaged 24.3 points while shooting 54.2 percent overall and going 13 of 25 from 3-point range.

Martin averaged 26.0 points against the Lakers last season.

The Rockets have lost three straight to the Lakers at Staples Center and nine of the last 11 overall meetings between the teams.


Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

Probable Starters
  Lakers    
  #9 Barnes SF #10 Budinger  
  #16 Gasol PF #4 Scola  
  #17 Bynum C #27 Hill  
  #24 Bryant SG #12 Martin  
  #2 Fisher PG #7 Lowry  



Lakers Kobe Bryant
(torn lunotriquetral ligament, right wrist) is probable.
Matt Barnes
(bursitis, left hip) is probable.
Derrick Caracter
(torn lateral meniscus, left knee) is out.
Pau Gasol
(sprained right shoulder) is probable.
Josh McRoberts
(sprained left big toe and left thumb) is probable.

N/A



Game 1: 01/03 - HOU @ LAL
Game 2: 03/20 - LAL @ HOU
Game 3: 04/06 - HOU @ LAL


GAME NOTES

SEASON & SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers won last season’s series with Rockets 2-1 and have now taken each of the last three season series from Houston (2009-10 (3-1), 2008-09 (4-0)). The two teams have met 191 times in all with the Lakers holding a 129-62 series advantage (107-56 since the Rockets moved to Houston). The Lakers are 8-2 against the Rockets in their last 10 games overall. At STAPLES Center, the Lakers are 15-8 all- time against the Rockets and 7-3 in their last 10. In Houston, the Lakers are 7-3 in their last 10 road games and are 9-5 all-time at Toyota Center. Kobe Bryant holds the series scoring record with two 53-point games. Both games broke his own series mark of 52 established at STAPLES Center in February of 2003. In 49 career games (44 starts) versus Houston, Bryant is now averaging 26.8 points per game, 4th highest among all teams behind Charlotte, Toronto and Portland. Lakers forward Metta World Peace played the 2008-09 season in Houston, averaging 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.52 steals in 35.5 minutes while setting single season career-highs in 3-point field goals made (153) and attempted (383) in 69 games (55 starts). He was also teammates in Sacramento from 2005-08 with current Rocket Kevin Martin. Jason Kapono played alongside Houston center Samuel Dalembert during the 2009-10 season in Philadelphia. Rockets forward Luis Scola has played internationally for the Argentinean national team as far back as 1999, competing against both Kobe Bryant (Team USA) in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and throughout the years against Pau Gasol and the Spanish national team. In the postseason, the Lakers are 5-3 in eight meetings with the Rockets, most recently defeating the Houston 4-3 in the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals.


BRYANT YOUNGEST IN NBA HISTORY TO 28,000 POINTS; 6th EVER TO REACH MILESTONE
With a free throw at the 10:43 mark of the third quarter January 1st at Denver, Kobe Bryant reached 28,000 points for his career. In doing so, Bryant became the youngest to 28,000 points in NBA history (33 years, 131 days), surpassing Wilt Chamberlain (34 year, 109 days) who reached the milestone back on December 8, 1970. Michael Jordan (34 years, 333 days), the only other guard in NBA history to score 28,000 points, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (34 years, 363 days), Karl Malone (35 years, 212 days), and Shaquille O’Neal (37 years, 319 days) round out the top six. Additionally, in reaching 28,000 points in 1,109 games, Bryant became just the 6th player in NBA history to do so and the 5th fastest in terms of games. Chamberlain was the fastest to reach 28,000, doing so in 825 games, followed by Jordan (886), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,008), Karl Malone (1,070) and Shaquille O’Neal (1,154).

Last season, Bryant reached the 27,000 point milestone with his 28th point January 30 vs. Boston. In doing so, Bryant became the youngest to 27,000 points in NBA history (32 years, 160 days), surpassing Wilt Chamberlain (32 years, 202 days) who reached the milestone back on March 11, 1969. Additionally, Bryant became the 8th player in NBA history to score 27,000 points and the 5th fastest to do so (1,069) in terms of games. Chamberlain was the fastest to reach 27,000, doing so in 780 games, followed by Jordan (852), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (965) and Karl Malone (1,035). The youngest player in league history to accumulate 18,000 – 20,000 and 23,000 – 28,000 points, Bryant was the 16th fastest to 18,000, 15th fastest to 19,000, 15th fastest to 20,000, 12th fastest to 21,000, 12th fastest to 22,000, 11th fastest to 23,000, 9th fastest to 24,000, 9th fastest to 25,000, 8th fastest to 26,000 points and 5th fastest to 27,000 points in terms of games.


BRYANT NEARING SHAQUILLE O’NEAL FOR 5th ON NBA’S ALL-TIME SCORING LIST
Last season, Kobe Bryant moved past Hall-of-Famers Moses Malone (27,409) 3/8/11 at Atlanta, Elvin Hayes (27,313) 2/27/11 at Oklahoma City, Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946) 1/28/11 vs. Sacramento, Oscar Robertson (26,710) 1/7/11 vs. New Orleans, Dominique Wilkins (26,668) 1/4/11 vs. Detroit and John Havlicek (26,395) 12/10/10 at Chicago on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Next on the all-time list ahead of Bryant (28,012) are Shaquille O’Neal (5th/28,596), Wilt Chamberlain (4th/31,419), Michael Jordan (3rd/32,292), Karl Malone (2nd/36,928) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1st/38,387). Among the top six scorers in NBA history, five have worn the Lakers uniform. Bryant has been steadily moving up the list over the past few years. In 2009-10, he passed Alex English (25,613), Reggie Miller (25,279), Jerry West (25,192), Patrick Ewing (24,815) and Allen Iverson (24,368). In passing West with a slam dunk at the 4:14 mark of the third quarter February 1, 2010 at Memphis, finishing the game with 44 points (West’s retired number), Bryant became the leading scorer in Lakers franchise history. In 2008-09, Bryant passed Gary Payton (21,813) and Hall-of-Famers Charles Barkley (23,757), Robert Parish (23,334), Adrian Dantley (23,177), Elgin Baylor (23,149), Clyde Drexler (22,195) and Larry Bird (21,791).


BRYANT NOW 3RD ON NBA FRANCHISE CAREER POINTS LIST
During the 2009-10 season, with his 29th point on February 1, 2010 at Memphis, Kobe Bryant surpassed Jerry West as the Lakers all-time leading scorer. In the history of the NBA, only two players have scored more points with a single franchise than Bryant (28,012): Karl Malone (1st/36,374) and Michael Jordan (2nd/29,277). Last season, Bryant moved past Hakeem Olajuwon (26,511) 12/19/10 at Toronto and John Havlicek (26,395) 12/10/10 at Chicago into third on this list.






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