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5 talking points of the LA Lakers' loss to the Houston Rockets

LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 18: Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers hangs on the rim after a dunk against the Houston Rockets in the second half at Staples Center on November 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Rockets 119-108.

The Rockets came into this game with a better record than the Lakers and at the end of the game they widened the gap. LA Lakers just lost to the Rockets in a close contest where the Rockets were able to pull away at the end. The Lakers were nursing a 13 point lead with 10 minutes left in the game but the Rockets made a run and improved to 9-8 and dropped the Lakers to 8-10.

Hack a Howard

Dwight Howard is a game changer. On both ends. For both teams. If you have Howard on your squad, enjoy the interior presence and lovable personality. If you are playing against Howard in crunch time, roll out the red carpet for him to get to the free throw line and jeer as loud as you can. Even minus the jeers Howard probably won’t be able to do much. Dwight Howard went 5-10 from the free throw line in the last four minutes today in a game which the Lakers lost 107-105.

The question is why didn’t Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni take Howard out of the starting lineup when it was evident that the great strategy of the Rockets had devolved into hacking away at Howard like Indiana Jones would hack away at vines? Mike justified: “If you take him out now, then you’ll be taking out a guy that’s going to be your franchise player all the time. We’ve got other problems to worry about. We shouldn’t be talking about him. He’s doing a (heck) of a job and he’ll work through it and knock them down.”

That is the correct way to deal with this situation. If you have a superstar who is struggling with something which is largely mental, the worst thing you can do is show that you don’t have confidence in him and would rather yank him out of the game then give him a chance to get better at the one facet of his game which is his Achilles heel. He finished with 8-16 from the free throw line.

Howard said: “People are going to say whatever they want to say, but at the end of the day, go back and look at the game,” he said. “The reason we lost was not my free throws. That didn’t lose us the game. Our defense was not there in the fourth quarter.”

Ok evading responsibility is not the kind of attitude you want to see your superstar player display. Accepting responsibility for your shortcomings is the first step to overcoming them. Dodging them is not a good sign. Even if Howard finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

For the sixth time this season the Lakers’ missed free throws outnumber the margin by which they lost the game.

Kobe scores a lot, but shoots a lot too

Kobe Bryant continues his high scoring. And the Lakers keep losing. Although this time the Lakers were missing Pau Gasol, Kobe’s high volume scoring can be viewed both ways. One one hand he is averaging more shot attempts than his team’s frontcourt combined, on the other hand he is stacking up points by the boatload. Unless he explores the other alternative, trying to get his teammates involved more, the doubt in everyone’s mind will continue to linger whether Kobe ought to shoot more or pass more. Unless he scores and the Lakers win in which case the proponents of unselfish play will be termed as Kobe haters.

For this one, Kobe Bryant had as many shot attempts as the other four Lakers starters combined, 31. But he scored 39 points as well.

James Harden and Jeremy Lin AWOL

J square. Can we call them that? One of the most promising backcourts in the league needs a better name than offhand references to Rush Hour. Both players move the ball well in addition to scoring, and thus they feed off of each other.

But not in this game. Both players were woeful, to be kind. If you read before the game that Jeremy Lin had 4 points and 2 assists and James Harden had 15 points on 3-19 shooting, you would safely conclude that the Lakers had lost this one. In spite of their absence the Rockets were able to pull away.

Thanks to a team effort

Tony Douglas had 22 points and Greg Smith added 21. Six of the nine Rockets players who played this one ended up with double figures in scoring. In contrast, only three Lakers players finished in double figures. The Lakers had 16 assists to 22 of the Rockets and 18 turnovers to their 10

Bright spot for the Lakers

In this loss, there was a silver lining for the Lakers. In Pau Gasol’s absence Antwan Jamison stepped up and got 15 points and 9 rebounds on 6-11 shooting.

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