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Lakers keep rolling while waiting for D'Antoni

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Mike D'Antoni still hasn't coached a game for the Los Angeles Lakers, but it's obvious he began putting a stamp on his new team after taking over seven days ago.

Still mending from recent knee-replacement surgery, D'Antoni was not on the sideline Sunday when the Lakers welcomed the Houston Rockets.

It didn't matter.

With D'Antoni watching from a trainer's room inside Staples Center, grimacing while undergoing a taxing physical therapy session but smiling from what he was seeing on the television screen, the Lakers cruised past the Rockets 119-108 while utilizing the D'Antoni-inspired, up-tempo, fast-paced offense.

Kobe Bryant compiled his first triple-double of the season, finishing with 22 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.

"It's cool. It's not something I go after, but when it happens, it's nice," Bryant said of the triple-double, the 18th of his career.

Four other Lakers scored in double figures, led by Dwight Howard, who had 28 points and 13 rebounds.

Pau Gasol scored 17 points, Metta World Peace added 15, and Darius Morris 12 as the Lakers opened leads as large as 18 points in the second half.

Gasol became 10th foreign-born player to reach 15,000 points in his career, finishing the night with 15,005.

"We're playing a very easy, simple style of basketball." Gasol said. "Guys are playing off each other, reacting, being unselfish. It's a fun style of play, an effective style."

The Lakers shot 54 percent from the field and finished with 25 fast-break points. Their 119 points were a season high.

"It means we're picking apart defenses, putting them in predicaments and forcing them to chose," Bryant said of the Lakers' new offense. "And once they chose, we make them pay."

And to think, Lakers point guard Steve Nash still isn't back from his leg injury.

The new, high-flying Lakers improved to 4-1 since coach Mike Brown was fired.

The game-day coaching responsibility falls on Bernie Bickerstaff, who has overseen the last four games with major input from D'Antoni during practice.

"They're one and the same," Bryant said. "They both want us to play up-tempo and read and react, and that's what we're doing."

The Rockets were unable to keep up, a problem the Lakers' opponents could continue to face.

"You come in here, in this environment, with a team with that many weapons, you know as the year goes on, they're just going to get better and better," said Rockets acting head coach Kelvin Sampson, who is filling in for Kevin McHale. "They're not going to take many steps backwards, they're just too talented to do that."

Chandler Parsons had 24 points to lead Houston. James Harden added 20 points, and Patrick Patterson finished with 14.

Rockets point guard Jeremy Linn scored five points, making just two of nine shots, but he handed out 10 assists.

"We didn't have enough desperation and hunger," Lin said. "Offensively, defensively, energy-wise, all together. It was definitely disappointing in terms of our effort and mind-set."

The Rockets shot 49 percent from the field, but when a team surrenders 119 points on 54 percent shooting, that won't get it done.

Houston didn't help its cause by giving up 40 first-quarter points to set a defensive tone that lasted throughout.

"I didn't like our resistance tonight," Sampson said. "You come into competition and you've got to come with an edge. It's a mindset. I thought we were performing tonight rather than competing."

NOTES: McHale is on an indefinite leave while tending to a family issues. ... D'Antoni said earlier Sunday he was 50-50 to coach his first game later that evening, but upon arriving at Staples Center, he was ruled out by team trainer Gary Vitti. D'Antoni is still under medication following recent knee-replacement surgery, and he typically gets fatigued later in the day. As a result, he decided he was not up to the challenge. "I don't want to be a sideshow," D'Antoni said. He hopes to return later this week. ... With D'Antoni out, Bernie Bickerstaff retained his spot as interim coach for the fifth straight game. Bickerstaff is 4-1 since taking over for Brown. ... Bickerstaff has been assured a spot on the coaching staff for the remainder of the season, according to D'Antoni. Dan D'Antoni, the new head coach's older brother, also will serve as an assistant coach the rest of the season, the team announced Sunday. Dan D'Antoni, 65, spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Knicks when Mike D'Antoni, 61, was head coach in New York. He also served as an assistant coach for the Suns during Mike D'Antoni's final three seasons with Phoenix.
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