Hours after trading no one at the deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers lost 121-111 to the Houston Rockets at Staples Center.
It was the Lakers quietest trade deadline since Rob Pelinka took over general manager duties a few seasons ago.
Houston, on the other hand, did not stay pat before the Association’s deadline for deals. They made multiple moves including trading away their top centers, Nene Hilario and Clint Capella, in a package that netted them forward Robert Covington.
Covington sealed the Lakers fate with a three that made it 127-120 with 1:27 left in the fourth. The newest Houston Rocket acquisition and former Minnesota Timberwolves forward finished with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists while shooting 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-7 from three-point range as a reserve. Covington averages 12.8 points and 6 rebounds over 48 games this year.
“Huge man,” Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook said about Covington’s impact in 30 minutes versus the Lakers. “His ability to space the floor… and shoot a basketball. That was big tonight.”
Westbrook led the Rockets with 41 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists on the same day it was announced he would join his teammate James Harden on LeBron James’ All-Star team along with Anthony Davis.
Added, Westbrook said it was definitely emotional playing in Staples Center less than two weeks since Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died.
“I know his mentality because I feel like we shared that common goal,” Westbrook said after Rockets win. “I know if he [Kobe] was here, I know what he would want me to do. And that is to go out and play my ass off which is what I did.”
The 12-year-pro got no love from the hometown crowd either. Russ and teammate Harden both got boos from the time they took the court to every free throw attempt, despite both being from Los Angeles.
Covington’s debut featured the team not playing a seven-footer over the entire game.
In fact, Harden took the tip to open the game. He finished with 14 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds and 2 assists in Los Angeles.
“Not smaller, obviously height wise, but heart.” The shooting guard said answering questions about his team’s smaller lineup. “Each individual got big hearts and we can compete with anyone.”
Houston only registered one-less rebound for the game than the Lakers too. They also outscored the Lakers in fastbreak points, 26-18, while shooting 19-of-42 from three-point range.
“Against anybody, that’s how we’re playing,” Harden added.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel tipped his cap to the Rockets two perimeter All-Stars as well as surrounding them with a lineup of shooters.
“It wasn’t enough down the stretch,” Vogel said about his small-ball lineup matching up with the Rockets.
Los Angeles matched Houston with 16 turnovers each. However, the Rockets converted that into 20 points points versus the Lakers 13.
“We can be a lot better than we were tonight,” Vogel said after the home loss.
Vogel also said his team forced the ball into the post a bit too much. They outscored the Rockets 62 to 40 in the paint in the loss but only made 1-of-11 threes in the fourth quarter.
Davis led the group with 32 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. His size was a problem from the Lakers first basket as he scored 15 in the first half. Davis also helped the Lakers keep pace in the third, scoring double-digits in that quarter.
“We didn’t score enough. They made us pay with some threes, got to the line,” Davis told the media after the loss. “…We just got to be better defensively.”
The Rockets also shot 16-of-18 from the free throw line while the Lakers shot made 12-of-18 attempts from the line. The teams traded buckets throughout before the Rockets took hold in the final minutes.
Lakers forward LeBron James finished with 18 points, 15 assists and 9 rebounds versus the Rockets. James did not give much meaning to the loss.
“We don’t like to lose, especially in our home building but there is nothing frustrating about our effort,” James told the media after the loss.
Otherwise, Los Angeles did get 12 points and 4 assists from Alex Caruso in 27 minutes. Their backcourt effort also featured Avery Bradley with 15 points and 4 assists and Danny Green with 15 points and 3 assists. Both players made 3 three-pointers on four attempts.
More Rockets and Lakers Notes:
L.A. capitalized on the size advantage immediately as Davis scored 15 points on 7-of-11 from the field in the first half. James also added 10 assists as both teams were tied at 63 entering half time.
The Lakers led by as much as seven and the Rockets led by as much as six in a close first half where both teams shot over 46 percent from three-point range. L.A. was 7-of-15 from deep while the Rockets converted 10-of-18 behind the arch.
The teams continued trading shots and highlight dunks. However, Houston led 97-93 entering the fourth hot off consecutive shots from Russell Westbrook. He finished with 16 points alone in the third while Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 13 playing the whole quarter.
With 7:03 left in the fourth quarter, the Lakers tied the game at 102 after LeBron James found a rolling Anthony Davis for a two-handed alley-oop. That shot followed a Danny Green contested runner to pull the team within four after they were in arms distance, including six lead changes and four ties in the third quarter alone.
Davis posted up James Harden, went to his left across the paint and hit a fall a way jumper to give the Lakers a two-point lead with 6:22 left in the fourth. James would answer with a put back for the Lake show on the next possession capping their 9-0 run. However, the Rockets would bring back to within one at 105-106 thanks to a Tucker three. The Rockets kept coming.
Eric Gordon hit a three to give the Rockets a 110-108 advantage with 3:56 left.
LeBron James three-point play brought the Lakers within one with three minutes left. However, the Rockets kept coming with a three from Robert Covington and a contested shot from Westbrook.
What’s Next for Lakers?
Los Angeles travels to play the Golden State Warriors Saturday, Feb. 8, while the Rockets will travel to play the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 7. Houston moves into the fourth spot with one more win than Utah after beating the Lakers. The Rockets and Lakers play again at Staples March 12.
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