In a game that almost ended in a comeback win for the Houston Rockets, Steve Blake seemed to have other plans. Blake made a wide-open 3-pointer with 1 second left to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 99-98 win, making up for a blown 19-point lead.
The Lakers started the game going on a 23-8 run, and shot 6 of 9 from behind the 3-point line in the first quarter. The Rockets, on the other hand, struggled to find any kind of rhythm offensively, shooting just 3 of 12 from the field as a team in the first 6 minutes and trailed by as much as 19 points. James Harden missed his first 5 shots, while Dwight Howard wasn’t involved much on the offensive end. The Rockets shot a horrendous 34 percent from the field in the first half, and 15 percent(2 for 13) from behind the 3-point line. The Lakers coasted to a 64-50 halftime lead, clicking offensively in every aspect as they shot 79 percent(11 for 14) from behind the arc.
But just like the last couple of games, all it took was a bad first half to turn the switch on. With the Lakers leading 71-57 early in the second half, the Rockets went on a quick 8-0 run and cut the lead to 6 when Harden found Howard for an easy dunk. Holding the Lakers to just 27 percent shooting from the field in the third quarter, the Rockets were able to get within 4 points as the fourth quarter started.
That’s when the Rockets turned it up defensively. With less than 5 minutes left in the game, Harden drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 91, and then found Parsons cutting through the lane on a fast-break for a wide open dunk to give the Rockets their first lead since the first quarter.
That’s when coach Mike D’Antoni decided to implement the Hack-A-Howard. While Howard made 5 of 10 free throw attempts, it was the effort on defense from Beverley and Harden, who blocked 2 3-point attempts, that helped to maintain the lead.
The Rockets held a 98-96 lead with a minute remaining and the ball, but Parsons inbounded the ball to Howard, who was immediately fouled, and missed both free throws. Howard made up for it with a block on a Wesley Johnson layup attempt on the ensuing possession, but Harden missed an 18-footer to set the scene for Blake.
Steve Nash set a pick for Blake on the inbounds pass, and a mix-up on the screen defensively between Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin lead to the wide open 3-point look. The Rockets had one final chance but Beverley’s inbounds pass was deflected by Chris Kaman, and a desperate heave by Beverley fell short.
Harden was able to put together a great all-around performance, finishing with 35 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks, while Howard scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Both Parsons and Lin added 16 points apiece.