HOUSTON—LeBron James and Russell Westbrook both had triple-doubles and the Los Angeles Lakers snapped a season-high, five-game skid with a 132-123 victory over the Houston Rockets on Dec. 28.
“The hardest thing to do in this league is win,” James said. “So when you win you never take it for granted.”
James had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his third triple-double this season, and it was his fifth consecutive 30-point game. Westbrook scored 24 points with 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his seventh of the season.
Houston stuck around for most of the night, but James took over late to allow the Lakers to pull away and hand the Rockets their fifth consecutive loss.
“For us to battle through this together and to finish the way we did with LeBron and Russ doing it together, bringing it home, I think that’s a big step forward in this,” said assistant coach David Fizdale, who was filling in for a fifth straight game for coach Frank Vogel because of COVID-19 protocols.
The Rockets trailed by one when James was called for goaltending on a layup by Jalen Green that would have put Houston on top with 2 ½ minutes left. But the Lakers challenged the call, and it was overturned. Carmelo Anthony made a 3-pointer a few seconds later to extend the lead to 120-116.
James added two free throws after that and his one-handed dunk after a turnover by Houston made it 124-116 with less than 90 seconds to go.
Kevin Porter Jr.’s 3-pointer got Houston within five before James struck again, making a layup to extend the lead to 126-119 with less than a minute remaining. James made four free throws after that to secure the victory.
“I just feel like I’m in a really good offensive zone right now,” he said.
Green, the second overall pick in this year’s draft, led the Rockets with 24 points after missing 15 of the last 16 games with a strained left hamstring.
“We expected to win,” Houston coach Stephen Silas said. “We had no problems standing up to those guys, not backing down. They had some great players out there that played very well. Russ with the triple-double, LeBron with the triple-double and Melo doing his thing. It was tough.”
Anthony had 24 points off the bench on a night James started at center and big men Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan didn’t play.
James said it was the first time he’d started at center at any level of basketball.
“I never played center in my life before,” he said. “I’ve always been on the wing or handling the ball.”
Fizdale raved about the versatility James showed in his role Tuesday night.
“This guy is unbelievable,” he said. “We’re all very lucky as basketball people to get to watch what we’re watching with this man.”
The Lakers took the lead by scoring the last five points of the third quarter and opened the fourth with a 6-0 run to make it 103-92 with 11 minutes to go.
Green got Houston going after that, making two 3-pointers during a 10-2 spurt that cut the deficit to 105-102.
Porter had 22 points and nine assists in his return after missing the last 12 games with a bruised thigh. Christian Wood also scored 22.
Josh Christopher tied it on a layup with less than a minute left in the third quarter. But the Lakers scored the last five points of the quarter, capped by a 3 from Westbrook, to take a 97-92 lead into the fourth quarter. Westbrook pointed at the L.A. bench and smiled broadly as he walked off the court after the shot.
Lakers: Fizdale, said that Vogel was getting close to returning but he wasn’t sure exactly when he could rejoin the team. … Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Austin Reaves and Rajon Rondo missed the game because of health and safety protocols. … Wayne Ellington missed the game for an illness that the team said was not COVID-19 related.
Rockets: D.J. Augustin, Kenyon Martin Jr., Garrison Mathews and Jae’Sean Tate were out because of health and safety protocols.
Biles at Basketball
Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles took part in the team’s first shot promotion for charity before the game. Biles didn’t make the free throw but Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta still donated $1,000 to the team’s foundation in her name for the effort.
Lakers: Visit Memphis Wednesday night.
Rockets: Host Miami Friday night.
By Kristie Rieken