LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Lakers Hold Off Jalen Green, Rockets for Narrow Win

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 29, 2021

HOUSTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 28: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball ahead of Christian Wood #35 of the Houston Rockets during the first half at Toyota Center on December 28, 2021 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are back in the win column.


Los Angeles defeated the Houston Rockets 132-123 in Tuesday's Western Conference showdown at Toyota Center. LeBron James, Malik Monk, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook led the way in a balanced effort for the victors, who snapped a five-game losing streak and improved to 17-18 on the campaign.

James and Westbrook finished with triple-doubles to help make up for the absence of Anthony Davis.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

LeBron slams one over Christian Wood to secure the Lakers W 😤 <a href="https://t.co/ulfdJCTRsW">pic.twitter.com/ulfdJCTRsW</a>

Jalen Green, Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. played well in defeat for Houston, which fell to 10-25 with a fifth consecutive loss.

Notable Player Stats

  • LeBron James, F, LAL: 32 PTS, 11 REB, 11 AST, 2 BLK, 1 STL
  • Russell Westbrook, G, LAL: 24 PTS, 12 REB, 10 AST, 2 STL, 7 TO
  • Malik Monk, G, LAL: 25 PTS, 2 REB, 2 AST
  • Carmelo Anthony, F, LAL: 24 PTS, 9 REB, 2 BLK
  • Jalen Green, G, HOU: 24 PTS, 4 AST, 2 REB, 2 STL
  • Christian Wood, C, HOU: 22 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST, 3 STL
  • Kevin Porter Jr., G, HOU: 22 PTS, 9 AST, 5 REB

Offense Breaks Through for Slumping Lakers

The Lakers came into the season with championship-or-bust expectations, but they have looked like a team with the ceiling of a play-in tournament of late as they tumble down the standings.

Davis' knee injury certainly played a role in the recent losing streak, and the fact various role players are also sidelined means there is far more responsibility on the shoulders of James and Westbrook.

The pair carried the Lakers to a 67-59 halftime lead as the primary scorers and facilitators while also battling for rebounds. Yet it wasn't a solo effort, as Monk provided a much-needed scoring spark in his second game since Dec. 12. Throw in Anthony's contributions off the bench, and Los Angeles appeared primed to end its slide.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

LeBron with the chase down 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/CyD78SAYE8">pic.twitter.com/CyD78SAYE8</a>

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Lik off the launchpad! 💥 <a href="https://t.co/1gi06GkleX">pic.twitter.com/1gi06GkleX</a>

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Big Man Strength 💪<br><br>(📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/SpectrumSN?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SpectrumSN</a>) <a href="https://t.co/mXZFS7E1CZ">pic.twitter.com/mXZFS7E1CZ</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Jalen Green throws it DOWN on Russ 😳 <a href="https://t.co/PYwoezZ91O">pic.twitter.com/PYwoezZ91O</a>

The supporting cast delivering on the offensive side was key because relying on veterans like James and Westbrook to do all the heavy lifting on a nightly basis is not a sustainable formula if the Lakers are going to battle with the best teams in the Western Conference come playoff time.

However, the defense was a problem Tuesday, which kept the Rockets within striking distance.

The Purple and Gold had no answer for Wood as a matchup nightmare who could extend his game beyond the arc and score down low against a short-handed Lakers' frontcourt. Throw in Porter and Green finding their stroke from deep, and the game was very much hanging in the balance in crunch time.

It wasn't just the shooting that stood out, as Porter handled the ball as Houston's main facilitator as his team kept the pressure on the Lakers on the offensive side. Green also caught fire from deep in the fourth quarter and helped the Rockets tie the game to set up a dramatic finish in the final minutes.

That was all the more notable since the visitors were the ones under the spotlight as they looked to snap their losing streak. 

Fortunately for Los Angeles fans, Anthony made a clutch three-pointer and James took over by attacking the lane and taking advantage of free-throw attempts after struggling on the line earlier in the game.

It took a night of offensive fireworks to overcome the defensive issues, but the Lakers managed to snap their losing streak against an overmatched opponent.                   

What's Next?

The Lakers travel to face the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, while the Rockets host the Miami Heat on Friday.