LOS ANGELES • A vintage third-quarter performance by Kobe Bryant failed to prevent the Houston Rockets from rolling past the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
Guard James Harden had 25 points, six rebounds and six assists, leading the Rockets to a 107-87 National Basketball Association league romp over the Lakers at Staples Center.
"I think we were playing too stiff," said Harden of the team's recent performances.
"We just had to relax a little bit, get some stops on the defensive end and just play our brand of basketball, and we did that tonight."
Centre Dwight Howard, who was loudly booed again by Lakers fans still bitter over his decision to spurn the team for Houston almost two years ago, scored 16 points and grabbed 15 rebounds despite experiencing foul trouble throughout the contest.
Forward Terrence Jones had 13 of his 16 points in the second half, and forward Trevor Ariza and guard Patrick Beverley chipped in 13 apiece as the Rockets (13-14) ended a two-game slide.
Houston also defeated the Lakers for the fifth consecutive time at the Staples Center.
"We relied on our defence to win the game," said Harden, who managed to hit just seven of 24 shots from the floor and only two of nine from beyond the three-point arc.
Bryant, who made nine of 16 shots, including a pair of three-pointers, scored 22 points and had eight rebounds for the Lakers (4-22), who lost for the seventh time in their past eight games.
Forward Julius Randle had 18 points and 10 boards, while guard Lou Williams contributed 14 points.
"They (the Rockets) have got a bunch of players over there that like to compete," said Bryant, who had Lakers fans roaring and on their feet after he drove the lane for a dunk - his first of the season - over forward Clint Capela in the third quarter.
Randle's lay-up pulled the Lakers to 76-81 less than three minutes into the fourth quarter, but an 11-0 run gave Houston a 92-76 lead. The Lakers never recovered.
"We put together run after run and we just continued to do things that we needed to do," Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.
"We got stops. We were aggressive on our pick-and-roll coverage. We defensive-rebounded the ball well.
"I think it was progress."