Lakers vs. Rockets: Live game updates
Lakers 108, Rockets 99 (final)
Kobe Bryant was back to being Kobe Bryant but in an MVP, can't-live-without-him kind of way.
Bryant took plenty of shots again Tuesday night at Staples Center but made nearly half of them, including four key baskets on the way to a 37-point performance that helped the Lakers thwart the Houston Rockets during a 108-99 victory.
After re-entering the game midway through the final quarter, Bryant made a pair of long turnaround jumpers. Then, after Houston had shaved a 10-point deficit to four, Bryant converted a three-point play after making a short turnaround jumper in which he was fouled.
Bryant later made another jumper and finished 14 for 29 from the field, including two for seven from three-point range, as the Lakers (4-3) edged back above .500. It was quite a departure from his previous two games, when he combined to make 12 of 46 shots.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum overwhelmed his smaller Rockets counterparts with 21 points and 22 rebounds and Pau Gasol had 14 points against the team he almost joined during training camp before a three-way trade was nixed by NBA Commissioner David Stern. Bynum helped seal the victory when he took a full-court outlet pass from Matt Barnes for a dunk.
The Lakers also got a big fourth-quarter boost from backup point guard Steve Blake, who made a three-pointer and a jumper and delivered a bounce pass to Troy Murphy that set up a three-pointer. Blake had 11 points.
Kyle Lowry had 22 points for Houston.
Lakers 76, Rockets 75 (end of third quarter)
The Lakers were suddenly confronted by an unlikely foil: Chase Budinger.
The former Arizona star who nevertheless would likely walk down Chick Hearn Drive unnoticed made a trio of three-pointers and a driving layup in the third quarter on the way to helping the Rockets continually push the Lakers in a back-and-forth affair.
The Lakers ultimately retook the lead late in the quarter on a Pau Gasol baseline jumper before Kobe Bryant missed an off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer.
Bryant has 28 points on 10-for-21 shooting to go with seven rebounds and five assists. Andrew Bynum has been a force in the paint with 14 points and 17 rebounds.
Luis Scola has 20 points on 10-for-15 shooting for the Rockets, who look pretty promising for a team that was nearly broken up before NBA Commissioner David Stern nixed the three-way trade that would have brought Gasol to Houston.
Lakers 50, Rockets 46 (halftime)
Getting a little greedy there?
Kobe Bryant made his first three-pointer late in the second quarter and then immediately took another three-point shot that rolled out.
By halftime, Bryant was halfway to taking as many attempts as he did against Denver on Sunday, when he was six for 28. On Tuesday he had 15 first-half points on five-for-14 shooting as the Lakers scored the final seven points of the second quarter.
A few minutes earlier, the Lakers found themselves with bigger issues than Bryant's tendency to shoot. Like an inability to box out, for starters. And a penchant for turning the ball over.
Houston capitalized on both Lakers shortcomings in overcoming an eight-point deficit to take a short-lived three-point lead on a hook shot by Luis Scola.
Bryant slightly pared back his shots in the second quarter, taking six after he had hoisted eight in the first quarter. (Then again, he played fewer minutes in the second.) For the half he has made one of three three-point attempts and has three assists.
Andrew Bynum has 12 points and a staggering 14 rebounds for the Lakers, overpowering the smaller Rockets. Scola has 12 points for Houston, which is shooting 38.5% to the Lakers' 52.8%. The Lakers also have outrebounded Houston, 28-21, though the Rockets have a 7-5 edge in offensive boards.
Perhaps the biggest factor in helping the Rockets stay close: The Lakers have committed 10 turnovers, leading to 10 Houston points. The Rockets have only three turnovers.
Lakers 31, Rockets 25 (end of first quarter)
It didn't take long for Kobe Bryant to answer the question of whether he would be more of a shooter or a facilitator.
One game after he made a woeful six of 28 shots, Bryant came out firing again, taking eight shots in the first quarter Tuesday at Staples Center against the Houston Rockets. He made three of them, helping the Lakers take an early lead as he scored 10 first-quarter points.
Bryant provided an early highlight when he made what looked like a pass to himself off the backboard before following with a basket in the lane. There was also an embarrassing moment later in the quarter when Bryant missed a pair of free throws while fans chanted "MVP!"
Big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol were also active, combining for 12 points while making five of seven shots.
Kyle Lowry scored seven points and Luis Scola had six for the Rockets, with Scola making an unconventional-looking hook shot.
Steve Blake ended the quarter on a promising note for the Lakers when he took a pass in the corner from Metta World Peace and made a three-pointer.
Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum fights for one of his 22 rebounds against Rockets center Jordan Hill during their game Tuesday night at Staples Center. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times