Basketball: Lakers squander 21-point advantage

HOUSTON • The third-quarter departure of Lonzo Ball, who turned his ankle, coincided with a few other unfortunate developments for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Around that time, they began to lose their composure. Then head coach Luke Walton got ejected.

The Houston Rockets, who had trailed by 21 points, took advantage to reduce the deficit to two, before ultimately prevailing 138-134 in overtime on Saturday to improve to 26-19 in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Los Angeles dropped to 25-22 and are 5-8 without LeBron James, who has yet to play since his groin injury against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day.

Rajon Rondo has missed the same number of games and the pair are not expected to return for their game against the Warriors at the Staples Centre today.

While Kyle Kuzma, who paced the visitors with 32 points, bemoaned that the Lakers were now "down our top-three playmakers", the Rockets were equally short-handed as well, missing Chris Paul and Clint Capela.

Their absence was telling, as the home team were behind for the entire game until the final two seconds of regulation time.

However, the difference was that they had James Harden, who led all scorers with 48 points at the Toyota Centre, in what was his 19th consecutive game with at least 30 points.

The six-time All-Star's streak is second to only NBA great Wilt Chamberlain, who recorded 30-plus point runs of 20, 25, 31 and 65 games from 1960-62.

But Harden, who is averaging 42.5 points and 8.9 assists in that stretch, downplayed his feat post-game, telling ESPN's Lisa Salters he did not "have anything to say".

He added: "I'm just trying to do whatever it takes to rack up as many wins as we can... I'm just being me. A little bit more aggressive. Shots are falling. That's it."

The league's Most Valuable Player was far more effusive in his praise of team-mate Eric Gordon, who finished with 30 points and had forced overtime with a three-pointer that knotted the score at 120-120.

Harden added: "That's what he does. He makes big-time shots. He gave us plenty tonight and we needed every bit of it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2019, with the headline 'Lakers squander 21-point advantage'. Print Edition | Subscribe