On Tuesday, Trevor Ariza and the "McGradyless" Rockets (20-14) visited Los Angeles (27-6) for their third meeting of the season. The bigger story, however was the return of offseason acquisition, Ron Artest, who was suffering from a concussion that he sustained on Christmas Day.
With Pau Gasol (strained left hamstring) out of the lineup against Houston, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest were both in the starting five to begin the game. Odom, who has averaged nearly 33 minutes and 14 points in has last four games, has been a great fill in for both Gasol and Artest in the past week.
Los Angeles started the game methodically once again, but successfully distributed the ball the entire first quarter. The Lakers had no one player with more than six points, though three players (Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant, and Odom) shared this total. Turnovers seemed to be a problem early for both teams, but each finished the quarter with low totals of five (LA) and four (HOU).
Los Angeles 22, Houston 15.
Both teams in today's match up were regarded as high-powered offense with Houston averaging 100 points per game, and the Lakers with 104. However, the slow pace style of play continued through the second quarter due to strong defense by the Lakers, clearly due to the return of Artest.
Houston, who shot 1-14 from the three-point line, required a strong first half performance from bench forward, Carl Landry, who finished with 13 points after two. Kobe Bryant was the leading scorer with 15 points in 20 minutes.
Los Angeles 41, Houston 33.
The Lakers looked to speed up the tempo of the game after only scoring three points on the fast break, and 10 points off Houston turnovers. After shooting only 36 percent in the first half, Houston needed to step up their intensity in order to stay in the game.
Rockets guard, Aaron Brooks attempted to shoot Houston out of their deficit, shooting 6-14 and 1-5 from the three point line through three. He finished with 18 points.
In the third Lamar Odom captured his sixth double-double in as many games while scoring 12 points and snagging 18 boards with six assists.
Near the end of the third quarter, Houston narrowed the lead to four against a stale Lakers squad. Though Odom has seemed absolutely explosive lately, Los Angeles struggled to find their momentum near the end.
Los Angeles 59, Houston 55.
In the fourth quarter, Bynum looked much more comfortable in the post, and finished the game with a game leading, 24 points and eight rebounds in 37 minutes played. Bynum typically plays well against Houston, scoring 17 with 17 rebounds in their last meeting.
With four minutes remaining in the game, the Rockets continued an 10-2 run against the Lakers, closing the gap to 3. The scoring stretch was quickly ended by a three pointer from Bryant and a dish to Bynum in the post.
Bryant (22) failed to meet his season average of 30 points, which was a great thing for the Los Angeles Lakers; he didn't need to score 30. Great defensive performances down the stretch by Bynum and Odom sealed the fourth quarter for the Lakers, giving them their 28th victory. Odom finished the game with 17 points and 19 rebounds in 39 minutes. He was one assist shy of the triple-double.
Los Angeles 88, 79 Houston.
Los Angeles faces the Clippers (15-18) tomorrow at the Staples Center.