Lakers Ace First Big Test

For the first time this season the Lakers faced a team that looked -- at least on paper -- like it could threaten them come the playoffs. But in the end, it looked like just about every other Lakers game this season.

After a rough first half, the Lakers pulled away in the second 24 minutes to win 111-829 over the Houston Rockets. That improved the Lakers to 5-0 on the season, the first time that has happened since the 2003 Lakers (the year Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined the team).

Kobe Bryant led the way with 23 points, while Pau Gasol added 20 points and 15 rebounds. Coming into the game there had been questions about the Lakers shooting, but not against Houston (a good defensive team), The Lakers shot 52.9% to the Rockets 35%

The Rockets led most of the first half as the Lakers looked like a team that has only played one game in a week, showing lots of rust and turning the ball over eight times in the first quarter.

“In the first half we were kind of sluggish and slow. We didn’t really get off to a good start,” said Lakers reserve Trevor Ariza. “But once we started to feel out the game, get in the flow of the game, we picked up the intensity and did our job.”

It was once again Ariza and the Lakers bench that sparked the comeback with an 8-0 Lakers run in the second quarter. The Lakers bench outplayed the Rockets bench all night — the Lakers outscored the Rockets by 34 when Ariza was on the floor, by 29 with Jordan Farmar playing and by 26 with Lamar Odom on the court. The bench players picked up a chunk of that in the fourth quarter when they helped blow the game wide open.

The Lakers used their two seven foot starters to completely dominate the glass against Yao Ming and the Rockets, grabbing 14 more rebounds on the night.

Part of the reason the Lakers had so many rebounds to grab is that it was another good defensive night for them, forcing a lot of misses from the Rockets. Ron Artest was just 2 of 11 on the night, but that was better than the leading Rocket scorer coming in — Tracy McGrady was 1 of 11 and finished with just three points. Speedy former Oregon point guard Aaron Brooks led the way for the Rockets with 20.

This win was an impressive blowout win for the Lakers at the start of a tough week for Los Angeles. Next up is a very good Dallas Mavericks team on Tuesday, followed by the New Orleans Hornets on the road.

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