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Lakers 99, Rockets 98

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Lakers guard Steve Blake buried a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to give Los Angeles a 99-98 win over the Houston Rockets on Thursday night at Toyota Center.

Blake finished with 14 points as the Lakers (3-3) finished 16-for-35 from behind the arc but just 5-for-24 in the second half. Guard Jodie Meeks added 18 points and forward Wesley Johnson 16 for the Lakers.

Guard James Harden paced the Rockets (4-2) with 35 points and added nine rebounds, but he missed a step-back jumper with 12.9 seconds left that would have bumped the Houston lead to four points. Guard Jeremy Lin and forward Chandler Parsons scored 16 points apiece for Houston.

Harden fed Parsons for a transition dunk with 3:52 remaining to give the Rockets a 93-91 lead, their first since Parsons hit a pull-up jumper to open the scoring in the first quarter. The Lakers responded by intentionally fouling Houston center Dwight Howard, who responded by making 5 of 10 from the line to help keep the Rockets in the lead.

But Howard (15 points, 14 rebounds) missed two free throws with 53.8 seconds left.

Trailing by as many as 19 points, the Rockets used a 15-3 run midway through the third quarter to pull back into contention and set the stage for a riveting fourth quarter. Aside from a Howard dunk with 4:33 left in the period, Harden and Lin were responsible for the bulk of the scoring.

The Lakers' scorching perimeter shooting set a breathtaking tone early, and just when their touch from behind the arc appeared unsustainable, the Lakers kept burying open 3-pointers to keep the Rockets at bay.

Johnson drilled a trey as the buzzer sounded to close the first quarter, the Lakers' sixth 3-pointer in nine attempts in the period. That built the lead to 36-19 and it required a Herculean effort from Harden for the Rockets to muster a comeback that shaved that margin.

After Lakers guard Jordan Farmer scored in transition for a 45-29 lead with 8:09 left in the first half, Harden tallied seven consecutive points to pull the Rockets to within nine, following a 3-pointer with a three-point play following a transition layup at the 7:30 mark of the second quarter.

But Houston followed with a stretch where it missed seven consecutive free throws, a wide-open Francisco Garcia 3, and a Harden-to-Parsons alley-oop as the Lakers sat on 48 points. The Lakers proceeded to close the half with four additional 3s without a miss and carried a 64-50 lead into the break on an unreal 11-for-14 effort from behind the arc.

NOTES: Lakers C Chris Kaman earned his first start of the season with F Shawne Williams relegated to the bench. Kaman was averaging 9.0 points and 5.6 rebounds while logging 16.6 minutes per game. "Just trying to get more consistency and give us a better lineup to start the game with," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We had some success in the preseason and then (Kaman) got sick and we went away from it. But it's time to experiment a little bit more." ... Rockets G Patrick Beverley returned to the starting lineup after posting 12 points and four rebounds off the bench in his return from injury Tuesday night in Portland. G Jeremy Lin went to the bench. ... In two games last season against his original organization, the Orlando Magic, while with the Lakers, Rockets C Dwight Howard totaled 60 points, 31 rebounds and three blocked shots. ... The Rockets assigned rookie G Isaiah Canaan and rookie F Robert Covington to their NBA Development League affiliate, Rio Grande Valley.
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