LOS ANGELES (AP) The Lakers‘ immediate rematch with Houston was a whole lot tougher than the initial meeting, and it wasn’t decided until Kevin Porter Jr.‘s 3-pointer rimmed out right before the buzzer.
Los Angeles still kept winning with a huge collective game from its new Big Three.
Anthony Davis had 27 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots for the Lakers, who have won three straight and five of six after an 0-2 start to their reboot season.
After dominating Sunday’s visit from Houston, Los Angeles struggled through the first half and trailed by 11 in the third quarter of the rematch before they were spurred to the win by Westbrook and James, who put LA ahead to stay while scoring 10 straight points midway through the fourth quarter.
»It was just about the moment,» said James, who has been managing a right ankle injury. »Just trying to make the best plays to help our team win.»
Rookie Jalen Green scored 24 points for Houston, but the second overall pick was scoreless in the second half until he hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the final minute, abruptly slicing the Lakers’ lead to one point with 8.2 seconds left. Malik Monk then made just one of two free throws for the Lakers, but USC product Porter missed a step-back 3 for Houston to end it.
»I didn’t like how we played the first game, (but) we for sure grew up a lot,» Green said. »I think today showed that we grew and started playing as a team and trusting each other.»
James, Davis and Westbrook scored at least 20 points apiece for the first time in their nascent partnership, while James added 10 assists and Westbrook contributed nine rebounds and seven assists. Carmelo Anthony also provided yet another impressive performance off the bench, hitting three 3-pointers while scoring 15 points.
Christian Wood had 26 points and 16 rebounds for the Rockets, who have lost five straight and six of seven to begin this rebuilding season. Houston still played 2 1/2 impressive quarters against the star-studded Lakers led by Wood and Jae’Sean Tate, who had 20 points.
»Like I’ve said from the jump, we’re seeing the growth,» Tate said. »We’re seeing us get more comfortable with each other. You’re seeing us get more comfortable in the system, and I think it’s going to get even better as the season progresses. … As long as we continue to learn from game to game, we’re going to see results.»
Two nights after Los Angeles held Houston to 85 points, the Rockets had 70 by halftime against an unimpressive effort on defense by the Lakers, whose consistent defensive investment has already appeared to be a problem this season for a veteran roster.
»All of their guys shot the ball well,» Davis said. »Hats off to them. That’s a young team that’s coming in and playing with a lot of freedom, and their guys can play. Sunday night, they didn’t make a lot of shots. Tonight they did.»
Alperen Sengun had four points for Houston in the Turkish teenager’s first NBA start.
Rockets: Eric Gordon couldn’t play due to nausea, the team said. … German big man Daniel Theis couldn’t play due to a sore right big toe, forcing Houston to start the 19-year-old Sengun in its first starting lineup change of the season. … Danuel House also sat out with a sprained right foot.
Lakers: Dwight Howard missed his second straight game with neck stiffness. … Wayne Ellington was in uniform again, but still hasn’t played this season while he recovers from a left hamstring strain. … With two steals, James (2,077) passed Mookie Blaylock (2,075) for 12th place on the NBA’s career list. Karl Malone (2,085) is 11th. … Westbrook scored his 22,000th point, becoming the 34th player in league history to do it.
An unusual refereeing review decision late in the fourth quarter left the Lakers fuming.
The officials took two Lakers points off the board with 2:31 to play when they realized a foul they had called was only the Rockets’ fourth of the quarter, not the fifth. That meant Kent Bazemore hadn’t been entitled to the two free throws he had made – but as the Lakers pointed out, Los Angeles effectively lost a possession because the game had already proceeded past that point.
»It’s definitely something the league has got to look at,» Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. »I understand the mindset to get it right … but the league can’t give us that possession back. Very frustrated by that.»
Vogel, Bazemore and Anthony all got technical fouls for arguing calls during the first half.
Rockets: At Suns on Thursday.
Lakers: Host Thunder on Thursday.
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