Without injured Yao Ming(notes) and Tracy McGrady(notes), the Rockets didn’t have the size to contend with the defending NBA champions. Bynum continued his string of consistent performances, more necessary than ever until Gasol returns from a strained left hamstring.
“I got a lot more touches, I was aggressive and good things happened for me,” Bynum said. “I got my touch back around the rim, shots started falling for me and it just got easier from there.”
Bryant added 22 points despite an aching finger on his shooting hand, but had just three field goals in the second half when he picked up four fouls. Lamar Odom(notes) came up one assist shy of his 13th career triple-double, with 17 points and 19 rebounds in Gasol’s absence despite a bout of gastroenteritis.
“That was a monster game by him,” Bynum said.
Odom jokingly advised reporters afterward to “interview at your own risk” before admitting he felt better than a day earlier when he missed practice.
“I take pride in being a strong sixth man,” he said. “I feel like when I have a good rebounding game I play better.”
Two nights after their highest-scoring game of the season, a 131-96 win over Dallas, the Lakers avenged one of their three home losses with their fewest points in a win this season.
“We stayed focused and disciplined,” Odom said. “Nobody took bad shots, questionable shots. It allowed us to have a good defensive rotation.”
Bryant got smacked on his right hand early in the game. He’s already wearing a bandage on his injured right index finger.
“My finger was horrible, horrible,” he said. “I had to make a lot of left-handed moves. I just got to play through it.”
Asked if the additional punishment would cause him to reduce his minutes, Bryant replied, “What, am I going to get a bib and a rattle?”
Houston twice got within two points in the fourth quarter only to have the Lakers regroup and hit key baskets to keep the lead they owned the entire game. Shane Battier(notes) sandwiched 3-pointers around a basket by Scola to draw the Rockets to 73-71.
“I feel like we had open shots and we didn’t capitalize on their mistakes,” Brooks said. “They did just enough to keep us away.”
Odom responded with a three-point play, Bryant made a fadeaway jumper and Bynum’s hook shot extended the Lakers’ lead to 80-73 with 2:09 remaining.
That was part of a 15-8 game-ending run for Los Angeles, which lost to Houston 101-91 at home on Nov. 15.
“You get yourself in the fourth quarter and a chance to win, that’s what you’re looking for,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “But we didn’t finish and they did. Bynum was a handful all night for us.”
The Lakers led 53-41, matching their largest lead of the game, on a 3-pointer by Artest. But the Rockets outscored them 14-6, with Scola scoring seven, to get to 59-55 heading into the fourth.
Bryant picked up three quick fouls in the third before sitting down.
He earned his fourth a minute into the final quarter and gave a cold stare to referee Derek Richardson after Ariza’s running jumper cut the Lakers’ lead to two.
With Artest returning to the starting lineup, the Lakers zipped to a 12-point lead in the first quarter.
Bryant sat down for a breather early in the second, when the Rockets closed to 28-24. But he soon returned and scored nine of the Lakers’ final 13 points, extending their lead to 41-33 at halftime.
NOTES: Gasol said after the game his strained left hamstring isn’t as serious as the right strained hamstring that kept him out of the season’s first 11 games. “I guess it’s just bad luck and hopefully it’ll go away soon enough,” he said. … The Lakers will be the visitors Wednesday night against the Clippers, who are 1-9 in the teams’ last 10 meetings. The Clippers have won two straight overall. The Lakers won 99-92 on opening night and are seeking their third consecutive season sweep of their hallway rivals. … The Rockets fell to 0-2 on their three-game trip and have lost three straight on the road.