Surging Lakers Handle Rockets, 119-108
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant had 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his 18th career triple-double, and the revitalized Los Angeles Lakers ran past the Houston Rockets 119-108 Sunday night for their fourth victory in five games since firing coach Mike Brown.
Dwight Howard had 28 points and 13 rebounds, and Pau Gasol scored his 15,000th career point among his 17 as the Lakers returned to .500 by running away from their second straight opponent since coach Mike D’Antoni took over their practices.
D’Antoni watched his second straight game from the Lakers’ locker room while interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff ran the bench. D’Antoni decided earlier Sunday to delay his debut, giving him a few more days to recover from recent knee replacement surgery.
Chandler Parsons scored 24 points and James Harden had 20 for the Rockets, who have lost six of eight.
Bickerstaff improved to 4-1 while filling in for Brown and D’Antoni, who announced the longtime NBA coach and executive will remain on his staff — as long as the Lakers beat Houston, D’Antoni joked.
Bickerstaff’s job is secure, and the Lakers finally are starting to play with a flair worthy of their loaded roster, even while point guard Steve Nash missed his eighth straight game with a small fracture in his leg.
The Lakers already are running a significant portion of D’Antoni’s playbook, and it showed in a second straight free-flowing victory for a team that followed an 0-8 preseason with a 1-4 start, leading to Brown’s dismissal just nine days ago. The Lakers scored 114 points while beating Phoenix two days ago.
With an offensive rebound with 5 1/2 minutes to play, Bryant recorded his first triple-double since Nov. 3, 2010, at Sacramento. The NBA’s fifth-leading career scorer was in top form, breaking down defenders and hitting acrobatic shots with the flair of his best games.
But Bryant doesn’t have to win games by himself, and the rest of the Lakers were sharp as well. Howard attacked the basket relentlessly while his teammates set him up for high-percentage shots, and Metta World Peace contributed 15 points.
With a smooth jumper in the second half, Gasol became the 10th foreign-born player and the first Spaniard to score 15,000 NBA points. The four-time All-Star has won two titles with the Lakers, and the Staples Center fans gave him an ovation when his achievement was announced.
Starting point guard Darius Morris scored a career-high 12 points while doing a decent defensive job on Jeremy Lin, who had 10 assists but just five points on 2-of-9 shooting.
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