Mike TrudellOctober 26, 2010Post-Game & Running Diaryby
The last time L.A. took the STAPLES Center floor in a game that counted, they came back from a 13-point second half deficit to beat the Boston Celtics and secure the franchise’s 16th NBA title.
Fast forward to Ring Night on Tuesday in a game that meant next to nothing in comparison yet retained some tangible energy, as the Lakers fell behind by as many as 15 points in the second half before rallying to secure a 112-110 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Pau Gasol led all scorers with 29 points and 11 rebounds and Kobe Bryant added 27 points and seven assists, while reserves Steve Blake and Shannon Brown erupted to nail a combined 7-of-7 combined three-pointers in the second half to turn the game on its head.
"We just didn’t seem to find traction until Shannon and Steve got in the ballgame and changed the texture of (it),” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "It was a great effort by those two. They gave us a big rally.”
Blake, playing in his first game as a Laker, started a game-changing 21-4 run from the final minute of the third into the fourth quarter with back-to-back threes, then caused the STAPLES Center crowd to erupt by draining a game-winning three-pointer from Bryant’s trusting feed with 18.8 seconds to play.
Blake then hounded Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks into Lamar Odom’s waiting arms with 2.4 seconds left as the Rockets, down 112-110, squandered a final chance to tie. Brown’s contribution came primarily in the first six minutes of the fourth, when he nailed four consecutive three-pointers from various spots on the floor for 12 of his 16 final period points.
"That’s what we’re supposed to do coming off the bench,” said Brown, who worked hard on his shot throughout the summer. "It’s our job to come out there and keep pushing.”
Meanwhile on defense, the Lakers held Houston to 34.9 percent shooting in the second half after a 50 percent first half produced 62 points, limiting guards Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin to just 13 of their 50 total points.
Up next is a Friday evening road tilt against Phoenix, but until then, your numbers:
Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Ring Night season opener against Houston, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
5:42 While Artest added his second three plus a Yao goaltend to get eight quick points, the Rockets continued a hot shooting start of their own when Kevin Martin joined backcourt mate Aaron Brooks with two three-pointers, Houston taking a 20-16 lead.
2:59 L.A.’s coaching staff praised how well Steve Blake had fit in throughout the preseason, and we got an early example of why when he simply made two quick, ideal passes on his first offensive possession, ultimately resulting in an easy dunk for Gasol that brought L.A. within six at 26-20. After a Martin free throw, Gasol then stuck a reverse layup to get to 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
0:00 A few more preseason carryovers early: Shannon Brown listened to his coaches and shot the ball when open (swish) after checking in; and Gasol, so eager to get the preseason over with, added a bucket to lead the Lakers with 12 points. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Martin had 12 and Brooks 15 thanks to a combined 5-of-7 from three, opening a 33-26 lead for the road team at quarter’s end.
5:21 While L.A. clearly missed Andrew Bynum’s defensive presence inside, we were reminded of how this team won two straight championships, as the guy who doesn’t even start when Bynum’s healthy grabbed three rebounds in one minute and converted two layups to bring L.A. within five at 48-44.
0:42.0 Perhaps more important than it should have been was Bryant’s four-point play in response to Brooks’s fourth three-pointer, which came courtesy of an and-1 layup around Martin plus Martin’s technical technical foul. The half ended in kind, with Houston riding its six three-pointers and near 50-percent shooting towards a 62-51 lead.
4:18 Things picked up a bit thanks to Gasol, who got to 21 points with a quick nine that cut Houston’s lead to seven. The Spaniard, however, was then whistled for his fourth foul while in his mind cleanly blocking Brad Miller, bringing Theo Ratliff onto the floor, quite a drop off offensively for L.A. Meanwhile, Artest continued to struggle considerably on offense, missing his 11th straight shot after a 3-of-4 start.
0:26.0 L.A. had gotten exactly six points from its bench in the first three quarters … until Blake matched that total within 30 seconds, nailing back-to-back corner threes to cut Houston’s lead to five (82-77) heading into the fourth.
7:44 The terrific stretch of basketball from L.A.’s 3 B’s (Brown, Blake and Barnes) plus Odom and Gasol continued as Brown converted a transition layup and then an end-of-clock three before 1-of-2 Blake free throws capped a 21-4 Lakers run, suddenly turning a once 15-point deficit into a six-point lead at 92-86.
5:29 Well, that was fast. Brown, whom we talked about continually in the preseason because he simply listened to what L.A.’s coaches said over and over about taking the open shots he had instead of forcing things elsewhere, saw things pay off in a big way. He nailed four straight triples across a five-minute stretch to push the lead up to eight.
1:07 The Rockets certainly didn’t run away, however, during L.A.’s run, fighting back to cut the lead to a single point behind a Scola put-back layup and Brooks driving layup after Bryant had converted an and-1.
0:18.8 Blake couldn’t have endeared himself much better to Lakers fans after nailing a clutch three in the final seconds to put L.A. up 112-110, but Houston had a last chance to tie after Scola’s attempt in the paint went out of bounds off Odom. With Brooks getting the ball along the baseline, Blake forced him into Odom’s long arms, resulting in a game-ended block to send L.A. to victory.
We’ll be back with the postgame report soon, while the Lakers will next play at Phoenix on Friday night.
4 Three-pointers dropped by Shannon Brown … in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, a huge stretch for L.A. which turned a big deficit into an eight-point lead. Check out how prophetic Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons was in our season preview about Brown catching and shooting.
7 Combined three-pointers made by Houston’s Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin, though only one came in the second half, compared to L.A.’s second-half-seven from Blake and Brown.
9 Houston’s edge on the glass (53-44), thanks in part to early foul trouble from Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum’s being in street clothes. L.A. countered by committing only 12 turnovers to Houston’s 21, eight of which were caused by Brown and Ron Artest’s four steals apiece.
13 Points off Houston’s bench in the first three quarters for Chase Budinger, a nice lift for the Rockets as L.A. comparatively had 12 points combined off the pine through three even with Blake’s back-to-back threes to end the third.
37 Kobe Bryant’s minute total. Phil Jackson had surmised that Bryant was ready to play more than 30 minutes after slowly ramping up his playing time in the preseason, and No. 24 responded just fine while totaling 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting with 11-of-12 free throws. He added seven assists and five boards.
38.9 L.A.’s halftime shooting percentage, mirroring the generally poor shooting from the defending champs throughout the preseason, allowing the 47.9-percent shooting Rockets to claim a 62-51 lead.