Photo courtesy of Christian Petersen from Getty Images

New game plan, Mike Brown – fall instantly behind by 15-20 points in the first half, and then surge from behind in the second half to win the game by two or three points. Evidently, the team can’t hang on to a double-digit lead during any part of the game, so best to just play from a deficit to give yourselves a better chance at the victory.

There are some things that winning teams just don’t do, and scoring 40 points in the first quarter on 68% shooting only to follow it by 16 points on 33% shooting in the second quarter, is one of those things. The Lakers played a great opening quarter behind the hot shooting of their Big Three – Pau Gasol (12 points on 6-8), Andrew Bynum (8 points on 4-6) and Kobe Bryant (9 points on 3-5). They had just a single turnover to the Rockets’ six and went into the next 12 minutes with all the momentum…and then they really let Houston have it. Yes, the Lakers let the Rockets take all of that momentum, and each time the visiting team grabbed some back, the home team snatched it from them.

After leading by as much as 17 points in the opening seconds of the second quarter, the Lakers suddenly went limp on their defense (Rockets scored on three straight possessions), their offense (they didn’t score for almost two minutes) and their typical regular carelessness with the ball began to rear it’s ugly head and added five giveaways in the second. By halftime, the once 17-point lead was six.

Halfway through the third quarter, the Rockets finally got over the hump, and it was back and forth until the final quarter, but not before Andrew Bynum was ejected from the game after getting his second technical foul. When the Lakers opened the fourth with a block from Josh McRoberts, a driving layup from Ramon Sessions and a long two from Metta World Peace, it looked like they were finally putting in the work to finish this game with a win. With the help of the Laker reserves on the floor, the lead turned into 12 with just over half the quarter gone…and then they suddenly turned into this jump shooting team. Bryant missed a three, followed by two missed two fadeaway jumpers, then Gasol missed a turnaround jumpshot. It was as if Bynum’s absence declared the paint forbidden. The Lakers led by 10 points halfway through the fourth quarter and STILL couldn’t hold on to it, if not build on it, to win.

Lakers – First Quarter – 40 points is the most the Lakers have ever scored in one quarter this season. That they came out gunning in the first quarter while playing aggressive defense, it appeared they were headed for a solid game. They shot 17-25 from the field, hit 4-6 from behind the arc and had just a single turnover for the entire 12 minutes. Their game was very controlled, their passes crisp and their shot selection efficient. They had 18 points in the paint to the Rockets’ eight and took 13 points from Houston’s six turnovers. The home team had no answer for Andrew Bynum and everything was clicking for the Lakers. It’s a shame they had three more quarters to play.
Ramon Sessions – In his third game as a Laker and first road game since moving from Cleveland, Sessions showed exactly why this team wanted him in a purple and gold uniform. In just under 29 minutes of floor time, he produced 14 points on 6-9 from the field, handed out four assists, grabbed a couple of rebounds and a steal and only committed one turnover. The speed with which Sessions operates is, well, speedy. He can get from one end of the floor to the other in a matter of seconds, pushing the ball to get himself a layup (which he did often tonight) or getting through two defenders and handing off to a waiting Pau Gasol for an easy hoop.
Laker Bench – Outscoring the Rockets Reserves 29-24, the Laker reserves are what got the Lakers back up before the third quarter ended. McRoberts and Sessions all hit their free throws towards the end of the third, Barnes scored on a driving layup and Sessions was just all over the paint, even hitting a one-handed layup in the process. The reserves did a lot more than just back up the starters tonight – they actually produced. When the starters came back in the fourth quarter, the energy suddenly left from the floor on the Lakers’ side. As much as people want Sessions in the starting line-up, I think it’s best if he stayed with the reserves. Unlike Steve Blake, Sessions is a scorer as much as he is a playmaker. Blake would be better served in a line-up with the Big Three, who do the bulk of the scoring.

Rebounding – Again with the rebounding deficit. Houston is ranked 17th in the NBA in rebounding while the Lakers sit at the Number 2 spot, yet the Lakers allowed Houston 16 offensive rebounds in a game. Pau Gasol, in 36 minutes of playing time, could only muster up four measly rebounds. In one of the final possessions, Gasol was a foot from the hoop and couldn’t secure a rebound against guard Goran Dragic? Gasol barely put an arm up to reach out for the offensive rebound, nor did he jump to try to keep the rebound away. He stood there and watched a guard beat him out for the board. There is absolutely no excuse for a seven-foot power forward who averages almost 11 rpg to collect just four rebounds. The Lakers were outrebounded 40-31, 16-9 in offensive boards.
Ball Movement – The Lakers handed out 14 assists in the first half on 23 made field goals, but only managed to hand out four assists in the entire second half on 19 made field goals. Four assists out of 19 field goals – no wonder they turned it over nine times in the second half. There was no purpose in their passing, no efficient decision making on their shots.
Andrew Bynum – 16 points on 7-11 in addition to seven rebounds and two blocks. It sounds like a sound night for Bynum, if only he’d been able to stay on the floor. After getting a technical foul in the first quarter, Bynum was shown speaking with an official while the Rockets were getting ready to shoot free throws in the third quarter. As the official walked away, maybe Bynum said something else to trigger the whistle for the T. Regardless of what he said, it merited a second technical foul and eventual ejection. Instead of taking off his jersey like he did in Dallas, he shook hands with people sitting courtside before he left. Two words, Andrew Bynum – GROW UP. After getting one technical, the unspoken rule, if you want to stay in the game, is to keep your mouth shut, but he couldn’t help but put in his two cents and that’s exactly what got him in trouble. The Lakers could have really used him in the final quarter – on defense, to score, anything. If he received that technical to make a point, it didn’t work because his team still lost.
Kobe Bryant – After the first half, Bryant was 5-13 from the field, and in the second half, he went 5-14. 10-27 from the field tonight, 2-7 from behind the arc, for his 29 points. 10-27 is certainly no 3-20 but it might as well have been if we’re measuring the amount of help it provides the rest of the team. Gasol was 10-14 from the field and Bryant had to take 27 shots? 27! He had just three rebounds and four assists. In times when he is not shooting well, he has to help this team do other things to help them win. Shooting 3-20 and 10-27 will not help this team win, but more efforts on the boards, playmaking and defense would probably do the trick.

The Lakers’ 3-game winning streak on the road has been snapped, like their winning record at home. These ugly habits that the Lakers have acquired don’t seem to be making their exit anytime soon. The large leads continue to turn into deficits and eventual losses, carelessness with the ball remains an issue and the efforts in rebounding seem to waver every so often. If the Lakers can’t put in a concerted, consisted effort in these games, they’re going to lose more than they win.

Box Score