Kobe Bryant vs. Houston
Kobe Bryant hangs in mid-air against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 17, 2016.
(Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Lakers Lose Pace With Houston In Second Half

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Sparked by Kobe Bryant assuming the role of distributor, the Lakers were initially sprinting side-by-side with the high-flying Houston Rockets, as they railed by just three at halftime.

Bryant handed out seven assists in the first quarter alone, including one which pushed him past Jerry West for the second-most in franchise history.

He sat out the second quarter but could not get the offense flowing again in the third, as Houston rolled past Los Angeles for a 112-95 victory on Sunday night.

L.A. (9-34) shot 73.7 percent in the first quarter and maintained solid production in the second. But the Rockets (22-20) blitzed them for nine unanswered points to open the third.

After the purple and gold responded with a pair of baskets, Houston stretched its lead to 22 by storming out to a 17-3 run that the Lakers could never overcome.

“We just didn’t defend in transition and get back,” Julius Randle said. “And on the offensive end, we were really stagnant.”

James Harden paved the way for the visitors despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter. The league’s second-leading scorer dropped 31 points in 27 minuets by shooting 10-of-17 from the field with four 3-pointers and a 7-of-10 free throw clip.

Meanwhile, both members of Houston’s frontcourt, Dwight Howard (14 points, 15 rebounds) and Clint Capela (14 points, 11 rebounds), added double-doubles.

The trio was key in making amends for Houston’s uncharacteristic 6-of-21 3-point mark, as the Rockets instead gashed the Lakers in the paint, where they scored 70 points.

Heading Westward
Bryant entered the game needing four assists to pass West (6,238) for the second-most in Lakers history, and he managed that in only six minutes with a dime to Lou Williams.

He now trails only Magic Johnson (10,141) for the most by a player in purple and gold.

“You have to keep the defense honest,” Bryant said. “You have to be able to make plays and make passes, and have the defense fear you as a passer. If they don’t, you can’t score 40 or 50 points, because they can just load up on you. You have to be feared as a passer.”

In just 24 minutes, Bryant — who said his sore Achilles tendon felt “pretty good” — tied his season-high of nine assists. But he claimed to have not done much differently.

“It’s not rocket science to me,” Bryant said. “If I handle the ball and I’m penetrating, I can find guys pretty easily and pass the ball pretty well. It’s nothing new.”

Randle Returns to Starting Five
With Larry Nance Jr. sidelined due to a sore knee, Randle returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 6.

The sophomore took advantage of his opportunity by recording his team-leading 14th double-double of the season. Randle collected 12 points (5-of-10) and 11 rebounds despite sitting out the final period.

But the night still had a painful moment for the 21-year-old.

“I though in the first half, he played well,” head coach Byron Scott said. “Then he took a pretty good shot in the nose in the third quarter and started complaining about his nose. So we’ll have to get that checked out and make sure it’s not broken.”

@juliusrandle30 carves his own path #GoLakers

A photo posted by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on

Notes
Lou Williams scored 15 of his team-high 20 points in the first half. … The Lakers shot 34.9 percent in the second half after hitting 56.4 percent in the first. … A sold-out crowd of 18,997 was on hand at Staples Center.

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