Shaq and the Lakers used Houston as a stepping stone.
Friend: 8 Ball
The Lakers can't win without Kobe Bryant, but they don't much like playing with him, either.
In the playoffs, they know what you do and how to stop it. So what are you gonna do about it?
• Mission Impossible
|Slams and Dunks: Challenging the champ
Looking ahead, L.A. has no shot at knocking out the Spurs without the usual 1-2 punch of Shaq and Kobe.
|Bucher: The final verdict on Francis
Steve Francis' game is under heavy cross-examination to determine if he fits in the Rockets' future.
|More from ESPN|
|Tolbert: Advice for coming back from 3-1|
The only way to play while in a 3-1 hole is to scratch, claw and fight for your playoff lives.
|Payton: No regrets in joining Lakers|
Gary Payton joined the Lakers looking to win his first NBA championship. He's found the adjustment much more difficult than anticipated.
|Rockets owner blasts Mailman for physical play|
Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander said he believes the NBA should suspend Los Angeles Lakers forward Karl Malone for his physical play.
|GP silent over reduced minutes|
Phil Jackson favors the shooting of Derek Fisher and Kareem Rush over Gary Payton, particularly down the stretch. Payton has kept silent, but clearly is unhappy about his lack of minutes in the playoffs.
|Legler: Missing playoff persons report|
Have you seen Cuttino Mobley, Keith Van Horn and Jason Williams lately? Their teams haven't.
|Kobe speaks: Bryant ends media boycott|
Kobe Bryant took a brief break from his self-imposed media boycott Friday, giving an impromptu interview to The Associated Press in which he explained his extended silence with a short answer: "One thing, I am stubborn."
|Lakers' Medvedenko misses practice again|
Slava Medvedenko skipped practice for the second straight day Thursday because of a strained right Achilles' tendon and is questionable for Game 3 of the Los Angeles Lakers' playoff series against Houston.
|Lakers struggling, but still winning|
Shaquille O'Neal has never been worse in the NBA playoffs, and he isn't alone.
|Slams and Dunks: Lakers' energy crisis|
Shaquille O'Neal must bring the Lakers to life if they're going to get past the Rockets in the first round.
|Bucher: L.A.'s much-needed recovery period|
The earlier the Lakers eliminate the Rockets, the more time they'll have for healing their wounds.
|Insider Breakdown: Lakers vs. Rockets|
Longtime NBA assistant coach and scout Brian James takes an in-depth look at the first-round matchups.