With Gasol out with a strained hamstring, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum stepped up as the Lakers edged the Rockets, 88-79.
Whenever anyone plays the Rockets they know they're going to get a hard-fought game with few easy buckets. The Lakers learned that last year in the playoffs when the Rockets pushed them to seven games even without Yao Ming for the final four and they learned it this year when they lost to them at home on November 15. Last night, the Rockets never led the entire game but never allowed the Lakers to pull away until the Lakers ended the game on a 15-8 run.
Ron Artest was back in the lineup facing his former team but had little impact. He finished with seven points and seven rebounds but also had four turnovers. Turnovers were a huge problem for the Lakers as they gave it up 20 times. The turnovers must be credited to the Rockets' defense. They didn't give the Lakers easy shots and frustrated Kobe Bryant in the second half. Kobe had 15 points at halftime on six of 12 shooting but in the second half he shot just three of 11 for seven points.
Although the defense was stellar for the Rockets, the same can't be said about their offense. They hit four of 23 three-pointers and made just 13 of 20 free throws. The Lakers didn't give them many open looks from beyond the arc but their defense can't exactly be given credit for the Rockets' lackluster performance from the line.
The only offensive bright spot for the Rockets was Carl Landry. He had 19 points on just 11 field goal attempts. He has the sixth man award locked up unless Adelman decides to put him in the starting lineup.
But it was the Lakers usual sixth man that had the biggest impact. Lamar Odom had started the previous five games while Artest was out and started last night with Gasol out. Odom had 17 points, a season-high 19 rebounds and nine assists. This is when you realize how important he is to the Lakers. They can handle an injury to anyone in their starting frontcourt because Odom can fill right in.
The other bright spot for the Lakers was Andrew Bynum. When Gasol's out, Bynum really shines. He hasn't quite learned yet how to play beside Gasol but when he has the entire paint to himself he puts up big numbers. Bynum finished with a team-high 24 points including 11 in the fourth quarter.
It was the Lakers fourth win in a row but the schedule is about to get much tougher. 12 of their next 15 games are on the road - although they remain at the Staples Center on Wednesday where they will be the visiting team against the Clippers. But after that they're at home just three times through the beginning of February including an eight straight road games on the east coast.