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Wednesday February 2, 2011 4:08 AM

Lakers Outlast Rockets In OT

Rockets' rally comes up short, as Lakers hold on for 114-106 victory

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

LOS ANGELES - Luis Scola stood perfectly still in the center of the Rockets’ locker room, re-watching the final minutes of a game that had just ended with yet another Houston heartbreak.

He saw the Rockets’ spirited rally at the end of regulation to force overtime with the Lakers, and he saw his team seize the advantage early in the extra frame. It was at that moment, however, that he solemnly walked away from the monitor. Scola knew what was to come. What’s more, he knew he was powerless to stop it.

Much the same could be said for the feelings experienced in real time while watching Houston battle, but ultimately fall, 114-106 to the two-time defending champs Tuesday night. After all, the Rockets have already seen this story so many times before during this roller coaster season: valiant comeback, opponent on the ropes, agonizing ending.

“We let them off the hook,” said Aaron Brooks afterward, and it was difficult to argue. Take nothing away from the Lakers, who showed plenty of their championship mettle in summoning the necessary playmaking and shot-making skill needed to emerge victorious. Kobe was Kobe, Pau was Pau, and Lamar Odom may very well have been the best player on the floor while racking up 20 points and 20 rebounds.

Yet despite everything Los Angeles threw at them, the Rockets refused to back down in front of Tom Petty and the rest of the Staples Center faithful. After falling behind by as many as 12 points in the first half, Kevin Martin kick started Houston’s rally in the third quarter, pouring in 13 of his team-high 30 points in the period to help the Rockets draw even heading into the final frame. And though Houston fell off the pace once more, Scola and Brooks tore LA’s defense to shreds down the stretch, scoring the Rockets’ final 15 points in the fourth quarter to ensure an extra period was needed to decide a victor.

Scola (24 points, 15 rebounds) and Brooks (16 points, 8 assists) continued their torrid pace as overtime began, helping Houston seize a 4-point lead with just 2:47 to go. Put simply, the Rockets were pick and rolling the Lakers to death and Los Angeles seemed utterly devoid of answers.

And then it happened: the dreaded lull that has been the bane of the Rockets’ existence all season long. The Lakers made their inevitable push, Houston’s execution fell by the wayside, and by the time all was said and done, LA ended the game on a lethal 14-2 run as Houston’s final eight possessions yielded 1-of-7 shooting from the field and a turnover. Check and mate. And just like that, another potential signature, season-turning, momentum-shifting win had dissolved into nothing more than mere what might have beens.

“If we play like that we’re going to be fine, it’s just we have to start winning some games,” said Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman. “You can’t continue to lose games but our effort was terrific. After a couple days off we came out and fought them every inch of the way, we just didn’t do enough to win it.”

Added Brooks: “I know that we’re in every game. We haven’t gotten blown out in many of these games but we need to get over the hump – I know that much. But saying we’re closer to anything – we’re in the same little funk that we’ve been in. But give credit to the Lakers. They’re a good team. These are upper echelon teams we’ve been playing on this road trip and there’s a reason why their record is outstanding – they’re getting the job done in the fourth quarter. And for us to have a good record we’ve got a find a way to do it, too.”

And 1s: Jordan Hill was forced from the game after landing on Lamar Odom’s foot following a turnaround jumper in the second quarter. Hill sprained his left ankle on the play and his status for Wednesday’s contest will be determined pending further evaluation.

Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced Tuesday that the team has re-assigned guard Ishmael Smith to Houston’s single-affiliation NBA D-League partner Rio Grande Valley. Smith is the second Rockets player to be assigned to the Vipers and recalled this season. He follows rookie forward Patrick Patterson, who played in nine games for Rio Grande Valley during a month-long assignment (11/9/10-12/13/10).

Smith (6-0, 175, Wake Forest), who was recalled by Houston from Rio Grande Valley on Jan. 24, averaged 12.8 points, 7.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.75 steals in four games (one start) with the Vipers after his first assignment on Jan. 17. With the Rockets, the undrafted rookie free agent has averaged 2.8 points and 2.2 assists in 26 games (three starts).

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN
Our guys played hard the whole game. We made a poor decision. We were down two and I wanted to run pick and roll, and we missed it and that was the game. We made plays in regulation to tie the game, we just couldn’t finish it off.

(expanding upon the aforementioned “poor decision”): We wanted to run pick and roll. I didn’t want to waste a timeout there and tried to get their attention, and they threw it down [to Luis] to post him up; that’s not a good play considering the two guys they have. We wanted to open them up – that’s how we got back into the game by attacking their big guys with the pick and roll.

If we play like that we’re going to be fine it’s just we have to start winning some games. You can’t continue to lose games but our effort was terrific. After a couple days off we came out and fought them every inch of the way, we just didn’t do enough to win it.

AARON BROOKS
We let them off the hook… We got the shots we wanted. They got better ones. But that’s the way we play: we want to be aggressive, get open shots and push the envelope a little bit.

I know that we’re in every game. We haven’t gotten blown out in many of these games but we need to get over the hump – I know that much. But saying we’re closer to anything – we’re in the same little funk that we’ve been in. But give credit to the Lakers. They’re a good team. These are upper echelon teams we’ve been playing on this road trip and there’s a reason why their record is outstanding – they’re getting the job done in the fourth quarter. And for us to have a good record we’ve got a find a way to do it, too.

KEVIN MARTIN
(on if his team had momentum going into overtime after a 4th quarter rally): “Yeah, it was one of those overtimes where it was going back and forth. And the first team that got the roll, which they did, was probably going to pull away. It happens like that sometimes, but we played a good game.”

(on the Lakers defense toward the end of the game): “We did miss shots at the end of the night. But they were keying in on our scorers, and we didn’t make the plays at the end.”

(on tonight’s loss): “It was a great performance by everybody tonight. We came in with a chip on our shoulder from the San Antonio game, and we knew they [the Lakers] were going to be ready… So we knew we were going to get their best, so we just tried to give them our best. Unfortunately we came down on the wrong end of it.”

SHANE BATTIER
“Well, I’m proud of the way we fought in the second half and to be in the ballgame. But we couldn’t get that last defensive stop in overtime.”

“It’s easy to get up for these guys. They’re the defending world champions, and Staples Center is great…so it’s easy to get up. We’re looking for some consistency, we’re looking for a signature win to sort of propel us. We’re going through a tough spot right now, but we’re better than our record indicates.”

LAKERS COACH PHIL JACKSON
on tonight’s game: “I didn’t like the way we closed the game. Defensively, we couldn’t get stops at the end. It was a little disappointing but we came back and found a way to defend better in the overtime.”
 
on Lamar Odom’s performance tonight: “I wasn’t happy with Lamar’s performance in the first half. The second half, he came back and had the game we expected from him.”
 
on what was the difference defensively between the end of the game and the overtime: “We got a hold of what they were doing. Obviously, there were some things they were doing that were effective against us. We did a little better job with that. We didn’t give up second shots. We gave up a lot of second shots in the third quarter that put them back in the ball game.”
 
on if Andrew Bynum could have taken advantage of this Rockets team and if the Lakers missed his presence: “Yes, it’s a small team. But they’re effective. Still, Lamar and Pau had big games for us.”
 
on the importance of Thursday’s game against the Spurs having lost to Boston and Miami: “It’s just important anyway. It’s just an important game. They’re in first and we’re in second. So it’s an important game for us. They won the first one down there. We had a good quarter and didn’t play well after that. We have to find a way to play them.”

KOBE BRYANT
on the difference between tonight’s game and Sunday’s loss to the Celtics: “We made some shots today, and that helps. I guess the Celtics, we weren’t very good from the perimeter, they were. Obviously we got some key stops when we needed to; against Boston we got no stops down the stretch. So I think those two things. 
 
on preparing for Thursday’s game against San Antonio: “Do what we do. Everybody’s just doing their jobs, getting in moves.”
 
LAMAR ODOM
on the Lakers’ communication: “We’ve been playing together for so long; all of us have been playing for so long. We’re not playing the game of basketball the way it should be played. We’re not communicating with each other.”
 
on the concept of “chatter”: “If you pass a park in my neighborhood and you see guys playing 3-on-3, all you hear is chatter—that’s what they call it in baseball. We don’t have any chatter right now and it’s hurting us defensively. We find it at times during the game, but I know it’s something we can do consistently. It’ll make us a much better team.”
 
on communicating and relationships: “Yeah, it’s communication you know. Things are always better when you communicate. If you have a girlfriend or girl, you know that -- you know what I mean. We need to communicate with each other better. It just makes us stronger.”
 
PAU GASOL
on his 3 years as a Laker: “Obviously it’s been a magnificent 3 years. My life has changed radically from that moment on and I’m still very thankful to this day.”
 
on the remainder of the season and winning at home: “We’ve got to continue to play better and play well and continue to win games. Defending our home court is crucial and vital.”
 
on his conversation with Kobe Bryant before tonight’s game: “I’ve just got to be more aggressive. I’ve got to get more involved offensively. Otherwise, if I’m not involved I can’t produce and I can’t maximize my talent so I’ve got to stay aggressive the whole time I’m out there.”

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