Lakers-Rockets Preview

The Associated PressMarch 19, 2012

The Los Angeles Lakers appear to have upgraded at point guard with one trade they made before last week's deadline, but may have disrupted team chemistry with another.

The Houston Rockets were involved with one of those deals, and in no way did it help their immediate need for a point guard.

Five days after their trade, the Pacific Division-leading Lakers try to bounce back from a loss when they visit the short-handed Rockets on Tuesday night.

Los Angeles (28-17) acquired Ramon Sessions from Cleveland on Thursday for Luke Walton and Jason Kapono, and then sent Derek Fisher to Houston for backup big man Jordan Hill. Adding the speedy Sessions, who averaged 10.5 points and 5.2 assists with the Cavaliers, seems to be an improvement over the 37-year-old Fisher, who averaged 5.9 points and 3.3 assists.

The trade, though, upset several Lakers veterans. Kobe Bryant, a teammate of Fisher's for 13 seasons, considered the five-time NBA champion an invaluable ingredient in the club's chemistry.

The deal appeared to make sense for the Rockets (24-22), who only have one healthy point guard and could use a veteran to bolster a playoff push. Fisher, however, never reported to Houston and confirmed Sunday he reached a buyout agreement with the team.

The Rockets are now forced to lean heavily on Goran Dragic at the point until Kyle Lowry returns from a bacterial infection. Lowry, averaging 15.9 points and 7.2 assists, is expected to be sidelined for at least another week. Dragic is averaging 16.0 points and 9.2 assists in six starts since Lowry became ill.

The Lakers are coming off a 103-99 loss to Utah on Sunday that snapped a five-game winning streak. Andrew Bynum had 33 points and went 12 of 14 from the field while Pau Gasol scored 18, but Bryant suffered mightily to find his rhythm.

He had 15 points and missed 17 of his 20 shots - his worst shooting performance since going 2 of 16 in a loss to Memphis on Dec. 20, 2004.

"The bottom line is, he's our guy,'' coach Mike Brown said. "The shots he took, I'd give it to him again. I don't know how many shots he missed near the rim - I mean, point-blank shots.''

Bryant, the league's leading scorer at 28.7 per game, had no trouble shooting in the Lakers' lone matchup with the Rockets, a 108-99 win Jan. 3. He scored 37 points and went 14 of 29, while Bynum had 21 points and 22 rebounds.

Los Angeles is 10-2 in its last 12 against Houston, and Bryant has averaged 30.8 points in the last four meetings.

The Rockets are coming off a 99-86 loss to Phoenix on Sunday, which allowed the Suns to move within one-half game of Houston for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Luis Scola had 18 points, Dragic scored 16 and Marcus Camby, acquired Thursday from Portland, had eight points and eight rebounds in his Rockets debut.

"It's always disappointing when you lose but we've just got to get home and get some practice under our belt with some new guys and go out and play," coach Kevin McHale said.

Houston's offense was a bit stagnant Sunday and could have better luck against a Lakers team that has allowed 105.0 points over its last four road games. The Lakers are surrendering an average of 97.3 points on the road - 9.1 more than they give up at home.