Lakers buckle down, escape with another win over Rockets

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Los Angeles, CA, Tuesday, November 2, 2021 - Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green (0) defends Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) in the first quarter at Staples Center. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
The Houston Rockets' Jalen Green defends the Lakers' Russell Westbrook in the first quarter at Staples Center on Tuesday night. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Even though the Lakers were playing host to the Houston Rockets for the second time in three nights, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday’s game was still all “about us” and not the opponent.

It was about what the Lakers are trying to create and the schemes they want to employ and the defense they want to incorporate this season.

The Rockets, however, came out to challenge everything the Lakers were about, pushing the pace, scoring with ease at times, refusing to back down even if Houston had lost by 10 points Sunday at Staples Center.

It took LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook doing big work and Kevin Porter Jr. missing a potential game-winning three-point try for the Lakers to escape with a 119-117 win.

James had 30 points and 10 rebounds, Davis added 27 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, and Westbrook contributed 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers (5-3), who won their third straight game.

James scored 10 straight points in the fourth quarter, igniting the Lakers after they got down by 11 points and had problems containing the Rockets (1-6).

“It was just about the moment,” James said. “Just about the moment and trying to make the best plays to help our team win. And at that point in time, it calls for me to score. And I was able to bring us a few buckets at the time.”

The Lakers appeared to have control of the game after Kent Bazemore made two free throws with 2:31 left for a 10-point lead.

But after a Lakers timeout with 1:35 left, the officials reviewed the play and realized that the Lakers were not in the bonus when Bazemore shot his free throws and took the points away, leaving the Lakers up officially at 114-106.

Meanwhile, Christian Wood scored five straight points to pull the Rockets to within 114-111.

The Lakers were upset at the call, saying if they were not in the bonus when Bazemore shot the free throws, they should have gotten the ball out of bounds for a possession.

Lakers forward LeBron James follows through on a breakaway dunk against the Houston Rockets.
Lakers forward LeBron James follows through on a breakaway dunk against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“So, [the officials] took the two points away. But what me, Bron and coach were explaining to the refs was we lost a possession,” Davis sad. “We didn’t take the ball out or anything. We shot free throws — take the points away, and now we just lose the possession. Which could have cost the game. In a sense, nothing you can do about it, stuff like that. But good thing it didn’t hurt us. Again that’s a [tough] situation.”

Even after the Lakers opened a 118-111 lead, the Rockets came back on back-to-back three-pointers by Jalen Green (24 points), the last a high-arcing shot over the outstretched hand of Davis to make the score 118-117 with 8.2 seconds left.

The Lakers’ Malik Monk made one of two free throws, leaving the door open for the Rockets.

But Porter’s attempt missed, allowing the Lakers to get away with a win.

The Rockets shot 52.7% from the field, including 38.1% from three-point range.

After scoring just 85 points in the loss Sunday, the Rockets gave the Lakers all they could handle.

“They just made shots tonight,” Davis said. “All of them shot the ball well. I mean, they was flying and shots was going up, and guys off the bench. Hats off to ’em. That’s a young team that’s coming in with a lot of freedom and guys who can play. Sunday, they didn’t make a lot of shots. Tonight, they did. We just try to play as good defense as we can and take the ball out of the net when they make it, run and score right back.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.