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Wednesday March 21, 2012 0:32 AM

Rockets Rally Past Lakers

Furious fourth quarter comeback propels Houston to 107-104 win

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - We don’t yet know whether the Rockets’ heart-stopping, electrifying and, ultimately, exhilarating 107-104 win over the Lakers is a sign of what’s to come. Time, as it always does, will tell that tale and goodness knows this season has been enough of a roller coaster ride to teach us that things can change rather rapidly – for good and ill – in this most topsy-turvy of NBA regular seasons.

What we do know, however, is that this is how the Rockets must play from here on out. Unselfish. Locked-in. Focused. Unflappable. Together.

For 48 pulsating minutes played out before a playoff-caliber atmosphere in Toyota Center, the Rockets stood toe to toe with the big bad Lakers and never once backed down despite finding themselves on the receiving end of a steady stream of body blows throughout; any one of which that could have turned out to be the knockout punch.

Los Angeles dropped 40 points in the first quarter on 68 percent shooting – the Rockets were unphased. The Lakers extended their lead to 17 early in the second quarter – Houston responded by whittling that deficit down to five by halftime. And when LA pinned the Rockets against the ropes in the fourth quarter, seizing a 12-point advantage midway through the final frame, Houston simply answered with a series of well-timed haymakers of its own to rally and ultimately triumph over the team that always seems to bring out the best in them.

What the Rockets did during that 24-9 closing stretch wasn’t magic – it only felt that way. It began with a relentless rebounding effort on the offensive glass as Houston corralled a whopping three straight errant shots before Patrick Patterson finally converted to bring the Rockets back within 10. Looking back on that moment, it’s difficult to downplay its significance toward the final result. Other plays will be more memorable, sure, but where might the game have gone if the Rockets hadn’t exhibited the resilience and desire to do everything necessary to get two points on that trip down the floor? If the Lakers grab that rebound and score, who knows? Maybe the dagger is delivered then and there.

Of course, that dagger was never delivered at all. The Rockets continued to fight, but more importantly, they continued to execute. The ball began flying around on the offensive end; one crisp, decisive pass after another, and before long the Rockets were finding each other for wide-open 3s and easy layups. Defensively, meanwhile, Houston closed off the Lakers’ driving lanes and happily allowed Kobe Bryant and company to go one-on-one and hoist as many contested jumpers as their hearts desired. The end result: it took Houston little more than three minutes to eradicate that 12-point deficit and just another minute more to claim the advantage for themselves. By that time the Toyota center crowd had been whipped into a frenzy; a cauldron of cacophonous noise that came frothing from the masses in a collective chorus of “Beat LA!” chants.

The crescendo, however, was yet to come. And appropriately enough, it came courtesy of the same sort of poised, total team basketball that brought the Rockets back from the brink in Oklahoma City one week ago to the day. After a pair of Bryant jumpers had tied the game at the 50-second mark, the Rockets calmly worked their way through their offense, weaving and curling off one pick-and-roll after another until Courtney Lee found Goran Dragic wide-open for a corner trey that Dragic drilled to give Houston a lead it would not relinquish. Pandemonium ensued.

Lee and Dragic will be feted for their crunch time cajones, and well they should be. But pinpointing one or two heroes in a game like this seems antithetical to what the Rockets were all about Tuesday night. Go up and down the roster and every single Houston player who took the floor contributed mightily to this win. Dragic (16 points, 13 assists) and Lee (23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) were certainly the headliners, but Chandler Parsons’ defense and Luis Scola’s scoring belong front and center on the marquee, too.

Simply put: every Houston player can take a bow tonight. As Scola himself said after the game, that’s how it needs to be for this team going forward if they’re to accomplish the goals they’ve set out for themselves. The formula for success was right there, laid out for all to see. It’s not magic – even though the end result was certainly spellbinding.

So was this a sign of what’s to come? It’s obviously still too soon to say. But for one magnificent, mind-blowing night, it sure felt as if it might be.  

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(On Chandler Parsons defense on Kobe Bryant) “He (Parsons) did a good job. He (Bryant) made a couple of touch shots. He (Bryant) made a big 3 (pointer) and it was that shot that tied. You know, Kobe is a closer. Kobe's been a closer for a long time in this league. Chandler did what you got to do. You get hand up. You try to make them take shots. When Kobe has a lot of clock to work with and he's on top of that key, you don't have a very good feeling in your stomach when that's happening but Chandler really defends well. He's (Parsons) is a good solid defender. You know, he's (Parsons) really part of the game.”

(On the play of Rockets) “We're not setup to say, 'Okay, we're going to run a little flare screen and pin down and setup one of our guys, probably at the top of the key and say go ahead do your thing.' We've got multiple screen and rolls. We've got a good hard drive by Courtney (Lee) sucked in the defense, made a beautiful pass out to Goran (Dragic) but that's how we have to play.”

(On the play of the Lakes) “Even in the first half, we got our hand up a lot and they (Lakers) made shots. I was like 'Holy smokes”. I though they might be setting some kind of record for the amount of points we were going to see tonight. They (Lakers) were rolling. It's one of those things , when as a coach, when you try to make shots like that you get a little concerned. Everything thinks that it's going to be easy, my turn and stuff like that. I was actually a little concerned that their (Lakers) offense was flowing too good.”

GORAN DRAGIC

(On his clutch 3-point shot in the 4th quarter) “I was confident that it was going to go in. I was making fun of Courtney (Lee). 'I did it. In OKC (Oklahoma City) I passed you that corner 3 (pointer) and now you did it for me'(Lee to Dragic). We have to shoot that kind of shot. We were open, there was a minute to go. It was a good shot. In the end, luckily, we scored it and we went up 3 points.”

(On the importance of the win) “It's huge, especially after losing those two games. We were close in L.A. against the Clippers and then we played bad in Phoenix. We were talking about, through the coaching staff, that now we have 7 games out of 9 at home and we have to win those games if we want to be a playoff team. Today we were fighting. We didn't start the game so well. They were hitting everything. They scored 40 points (in the 1st quarter) but then we established our defense and offense and I'm really happy we won that game.”

COURTNEY LEE

(On the play of the team down the stretch) “ We made defensive adjustments. At one point in the 4th quarter, Ramon Sessions had it going with the high pick and roll and we made adjustments on that. Then Kobe (Bryant) came in. We tried to give him different looks. So, it was just defense and rebounding.

(On guarding Kobe Bryant) “It's always fun guarding Kobe. We were talking a little bit. He brought up the old playoff days when we were in the finals. We were just chit chatting about that and talking a little trash to each other but it is always fun to play against one of the players in the league that's considered one of the best.”  

(On the win) “We weren't playing well early in the game. We just let them (Lakers) do whatever they want and we know who they are. They are the Lakers, with Kobe Bryant and (Pau) Gasol and all those guys but then we started playing the right way and we came back in the game and the momentum changed but we have to play this way regardless and we've got to learn from this game. We are not going to win many games playing against a team like the Lakers if we let them go up 17 (points) in the first half or 12 (points) with six minutes to go. It is very difficult to do this way. We need to play in a different way.”

(On the performance of Courtney Lee and Goran Dragic in the starting lineup) “When you have talent on your team that maybe some people don't know because the guys don't play many minutes and they are always behind somebody but when injuries happen those guys have a chance and  those guys have been waiting for their chance for a long time. They can play and this is what happens. You've got Goran now, you have Courtney, we've got a bunch of guys who are looking for their opportunity and waiting for the opportunity and when the time comes, they just go out there and play. It's  been happening like that all season long and that is a great thing to have.”

LUI S SCOLA

I believe this has been happening all season. When we play well, when we move the ball and we’re active, we give ourselves a good chance and good things happen. When we get stuck and we want to do isolations and we stop running and aren’t at active then we have problems. This is just the kind of team we are. We don’t have superstars, we don’t have go-to players who you can just throw them the ball and they can get you a win and get you 30 points every night, so this is the way we have to be. Most of our wins come that way this year and I believe most of the wins we’re going to have from now on will come this way.

CHANDLER PARSONS

(On defending Kobe Bryant when Bryant misses the shot with 17 seconds left in the game) “I played good D (defense). I was right there in his face. I think (Pau) Gasol set a brush screen so I was a little late on him but it was a good look for them. I think it was (Luis) Scola showed well and it was great team defense.”

(On the win) “Lakers at home, after losing two,  and we wanted this win. They are a great team. We had to play for the entire 48 minutes and we never gave up when we got down big. So give us some credit on that and just keep playing hard and defense is going to win us games.”

L.A. LAKERS COACH MIKE BROWN

(On the game)  “Bottom line, our defense is the worst right now and it has been all year, the last seven or eight games we just haven’t been playing well defensively. Our defensive assignments have been breaking down, our pick-and-roll coverage’s are breaking down. On transition, teams are getting open shots for lay-ups and a lot of that is because of our defense. We are turning the ball over, we had 15 turnovers and gave up 24 points. It’s the same old song. The last few minutes of the ball game, we gave up some crucial offensive rebounds. For those guys to shoot 49 percent from the field and still get 16 offensive rebounds, they just kicked our behinds. Just ‘hustle’ plays, where we should be coming up with the basketball and they just had the will to go get the ball, better than us. I am concerned about our defense. ”

JORDAN HILL

(On coming back to Houston) “It feels good. Weird to be going up against a team that I was just playing with a couple of days ago. It was good to be coming back. It’s all business, and you have to be prepared for things like that. It was all good after seeing and talking to everybody.”

RAMON SESSIONS

(How the game got away)  “Give credit to Houston, they came out and played hard and we weren’t able to make the stops when we needed, they went on a sixteen to four run, down the stretch it was one of those games that we just could not get the stops when we needed.”

METTA WORLD PEACE

(On the game)  “I think Houston played great, Houston started making shots and getting out on transition they played a really good attack.”

(On what was the key to the game)  “The key was they did it on defense and they made the plays down the stretch.”

PAU GASOL

(On the key to Houston’s win)  “We didn’t get to the lane much in the fourth and they did, and they also got some good looks. They were in good position to rebound and also got good kick-out to their shooters and they got into the game quickly. We have to do a better job defensively on their shooters and keep teams from doing things they want to do.”             

KOBE BRYANT

(On the key to Houston’s win) “They got a lot of rebounds, and they got three or four cracks at a possession and that changes the momentum of the game. The steals got them out in transition and they were getting into a good rhythm.”

(On Chandler Parsons defense)  “(Laughter) You know what man, I might have to stop taking shots, when the shot clock is winding down, that’s what I am going to start doing because you guys (the media) look at that and think its great defense, I am going to stop shooting the ball when the shot clock goes down, but I love him (Chandler Parsons) though. I do, I think he is a terrific young player. He can shoot from the outside, handle the ball, and can rise to the challenge defensively. I think he has a really bright future and I don’t say a lot about a lot of people.”

NOTES

Trailing 95-83 (-12) with 6:41 left to play, the Rockets outscored the Lakers 24-9 down the stretch en route to a 107-104 victory before a sellout crowd of 18,391. It marked Houston’s second double-digit comeback win of the season. The Rockets also closed an 11-point gap with just 2:29 left to play for a 104-103 victory at Oklahoma City (3/13/12).

Houston picked up its third win of the season (3-18) when trailing after the third quarter.

The Rockets scored a season-best 34 fourth-quarter points tonight, surpassing a 32-point fourth vs. Philadelphia (2/22/12).

Houston took the battle if the boards by 40-31 tonight. The Rockets also outrebounded the Suns by 48-39 at Phoenix (3/18/12). It was the first time the Rockets have taken the advantage off the glass in consecutive games since a three-game run in Feb. (2/8/12-2/12/12).

The Lakers set their team high for first quarter scoring with 40 points (17-25 FG) tonight. It was one point shy of Houston’s opponent season best of 41 first-quarter points scored by the Clippers at Los Angeles (1/4/12).

Luis Scola notched 23 points (9-13 FG, 5-6 FT) and three rebounds tonight. Scola now has 11 20-point outings in 2011-12.

Courtney Lee recorded 23 points (7-17 FG, 3-6 3FG, 6-8 FT), five boards, four assists and two steals tonight. Lee, who hit three key free throws in the final 10.6 seconds of the game, marked his third 20-point performance of the season.

Goran Dragic posted 16 points (7-13 FG, 2-4 3FG), a game-high 13 assists and a season-high seven rebounds tonight, including 10 dimes in the first half alone. It marked the second time this season Dragic has posted double-figure assists in a half. He also had 11 assists in the first half at the L.A. Clippers (3/17/12). Overall, has reached double-figure scoring in a career-high nine consecutive outings (3/6/12-3/20/12).

Kobe Bryant, who led all players with 37 points (14-29 FG, 7-9 FT) to go with his eight boards and six assists in the prior meeting at Los Angeles (1/3/12), had a game-high 29 points (10-27 FG, 7-7 FT) and four assists tonight.

Pau Gasol added 21 points (10-14 FG) and four rebounds tonight, which included 12 points (6-8 FG) in the first quarter alone.

Andrew Bynum finished his night with 16 points (7-11 FG), seven rebounds and two blocks tonight. Bynum recorded the first 20-20 game of his career with 21 points (8-15 FG), 22 rebounds and three blocks in the last game at the L.A. Lakers (1/3/12).

Ramon Sessions had his best scoring night since joining the Lakers with 14 points (6-9 FG) and four assists off the bench.

Jordan Hill, who was traded by the Rockets to the L.A. Lakers on Mar. 15, made his Lakers debut tonight.

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