Kobe Bryant scored 39 points in the Lakers 107-105 loss to the Houston Rockets. (Pat Sullivan / Associated…)
Rockets 107 - Lakers 105 (final)
The Lakers let a double-digit lead slip away to lose to the Houston Rockets on the road, 107-105.
With an early 17-point lead, the Lakers let the Rockets slowly catch up until a late surge put Houston ahead by two with eight seconds left.
The Lakers got a clean look from three-point range for Kobe Bryant but he couldn't connect. Metta World Peace grabbed the offensive rebound but missed on a short jump shot. Antawn Jamison's tip-in attempt came up well short and time expired.
Greg Smith scored a career-high 21 points for the Rockets including two clutch free throws with 15.7 seconds left. Toney Douglas led Houston with 22, but missed one of two free throws, his first miss in 29 attempts this season, with 8.8 seconds to give the Lakers a shot at the win or a tie.
The Rockets shot just 37.6% from the field getting just four points from Jeremy Lin (2-8 shooting) and 15 from James Harden (3-19).
Bryant led all scorers with 39 points, but only two other Lakers scored in double figures (Dwight Howard with 16 and Jamison with 15).
The Rockets (9-9) stalled the game by intentionally fouling Howard, who hit 8-16 from the line for the game. While Howard hit enough free throws down the stretch to give the Lakers a chance, the team's defense wasn't up to that challenge.
For the sixth time this season, the number of missed Lakers' free throws exceeded the team's losing margin.
Lakers 83- Rockets 73 (end of third quarter)
The Rockets were able to cut into the Lakers' lead, but Kobe Bryant's fade-away in the corner kept his team up by 10 after three quarters.
The Lakers shooting percentage dipped slightly to 49.2% for the game and the Rockets climbed to 35.4%. Houston has kept the game close by controlling the offensive glass (18 to the Lakers' 10) and by forcing turnovers (14-9).
Bryant led all scorers with 31 points. Dwight Howard has a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards along with three blocked shots.
The Rockets got a big third quarter from Chandler Parsons, up to 13 for the game. Toney Douglas was high-man for Houston at 14. Carlos Delfino also chipped in 13.
Lakers 58- Rockets 45 (halftime)
The Lakers scored 28 points against the Rockets in the second quarter, shooting 50% from the field again, to take a 13-point halftime lead.
Houston stayed alive by virtue of their offensive rebounding (15 to the Lakers' eight) but struggled to hit shots (32.1%).
Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 21 points. New starter Antawn Jamison scored 12.
James Harden struggled, hitting just 1-10 shots for four points. Jeremy Lin hit just 1-5 for two points. The Rockets were led by Toney Douglas off the bench with 14.
The Lakers have held a lead since Bryant hit a jumper 21 seconds into the game. The largest margin was 17.
Lakers 30 - Rockets 22 (end of first quarter)
Kobe Bryant scored 14 first-quarter points to give the Lakers an early lead in Houston.
In the team's first game without Pau Gasol (tendinitis in both knees), the Lakers offense seemed to show no ill-effects. Antawn Jamison scored five points in his place and seldom-used forward Earl Clark scored four.
The Lakers shot 50% from the field as a team while holding the Rockets to just 32%.
Toney Douglas led Houston with seven points. James Harden struggled, shooting 1-7 from the field for four points.
When the Lakers (8-9) visit the Rockets (8-8) on Tuesday night in Houston, they'll do so without Pau Gasol who is sitting to rest his sore knees (tendinitis).
The Rockets are a potent team offensively, averaging 103.5 points a night. The Lakers are better defensively, but Houston is a difficult squad to beat at home (6-3). The Lakers have yet to prove they're a capable road team (1-4).
Antawn Jamison is expected to start for Gasol. Coach Mike D'Antoni is also believed to be promoting Chris Duhon, adding a veteran to the starting group instead of second-year guard Darius Morris. While Morris has shown flashes, consistency has been an issue.
For a more in-depth breakdown, check out Preview: Lakers vs. Rockets.
Dwight Howard's free-throw shooting is hard for Lakers to ignore
Steve Blake needs abdominal surgery, will miss 6 to 8 weeks
Which teammate is Dwight Howard calling out for lack of energy?
Email Eric Pincus at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.