LeBron James vs. Houston
LeBron James drives against the Houston Rockets on Feb. 21, 2019.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

'Activated' Lakers Rally Past Rockets, Begin Final Playoff Push

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

LeBron didn’t mince his words regarding this final sprint to the playoffs.

With his Lakers on the outside of the postseason picture, James said that his playoff-level intensity had been “activated” at Wednesday’s practice.

And the four-time MVP backed up those words on Thursday night, dropping 29 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to lead the Lakers’ 111-106 comeback against the Houston Rockets.

The Lakers (29-29) lost their way in the third quarter, trailing by as many as 19 points. But defense — especially the disciplined kind — became their guiding light.

One of the league’s most 3-point heavy teams, Houston (33-25) shot just 6-of-22 from deep in the second half. The Rockets were also held to only two second-half free throw attempts, including zero in the fourth quarter.

“I love that it looked like we got our defensive mojo, our defensive confidence, back as that game went along,” coach Luke Walton said. “We had to get different groupings and different match-ups, but we kept scrapping and found a way to give ourselves a chance.”

While James Harden — frontrunner for a second straight MVP — notched his 32nd consecutive 30-point game (second-most in NBA history), the Lakers did a nice job of keeping him frustrated.

Harden shot a healthy 11-of-24 from the field, but just 2-of-10 from 3-point range. A master of drawing fouls, he was also limited to only seven free throw attempts.

Reggie Bullock (14 points, four 3-pointers) spearheaded the Lakers’ effort against Harden, who committed eight turnovers, including four offensive fouls. Those whistles prevented Harden from finishing the game, as he fouled out with 1:31 remaining.

“I was a Lakers fan growing up,” said Bullock, who started in his first home game since being acquired at the trade deadline. “Being able to be here at STAPLES, put on a Lakers jersey and be a part of such a great organization — I’m glad they came and found me.”

While Bullock led the defense and James guided the offense, Brandon Ingram was exceptional on both ends of the floor.

Ingram racked up 27 points and 13 rebounds, using his length to attack the rim offensively, contest shots defensively and clean up the glass.

The Rockets couldn’t keep Ingram off the foul line, as he attempted 14 free throws, making 11.

Asked about Ingram’s role as his wingman, LeBron pushed back on the notion.

“Nah, he wasn’t a wingman for me,” James said. “He was special for the team. B.I. is very special. When he’s rebounding like that, it just activates the rest of his game.”

Kyle Kuzma had 18 points and five assists. …. Bullock shot 4-of-8 on 3-pointers, while the rest of the Lakers went just 8-of-33. … The Lakers shot 27-of-33 on free throws. … L.A. had a 21-4 advantage in second-chance points. … Chris Paul (23 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists) fouled out in the final minute.

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