Rockets put up a fight, but slide continues

HOUSTON (AP) -- Even a hobbled Derek Fisher was enough to help
the Los Angeles Lakers deal the Houston Rockets yet another loss.

Fisher scored 23 points, making seven of nine 3-pointers, and
Kobe Bryant had 27 points as the Lakers beat the Rockets 107-101
Thursday night, Houston's 15th straight defeat.

The Lakers, 25th in the NBA in 3-point shooting, were 12-for-20
(60 percent) from long range.

Fisher is recovering from right foot surgery in October.

"He's not 100 percent, but he's close," Lakers coach Phil
Jackson said. "Somewhere in the middle of January he's to be
moving as quickly and as freely as we'd like."

Fisher credited Shaquille O'Neal, who had 16 points and 14
rebounds, with making things easier for him on the outside.

"They were paying a lot of attention to Shaquille in the
middle. That opened up a lot of space for us," Fisher said.

"On the road, you've got to be really sound. You have to refuse
temptation and not do things that are risky. We did a better job of
executing tonight."

The Lakers led by 14 at the start of the fourth quarter, but the
Rockets made a charge behind Cuttino Mobley, who had eight points
in the first five minutes of the period.

Houston got to 88-87 on a pair of free throws by Moochie Norris
after the Lakers missed baskets on three consecutive possessions.
The Rockets drew within one again, at 90-89 with 5:11 to go, but
they couldn't catch the Lakers.

"I'm proud of the way we played," Rockets coach Rudy
Tomjanovich said. "Sometimes I wonder how we do it. We fought and
fought and gave them a good game."

The Rockets' losing streak is two short of the franchise record
of 17, set in the 1967-68 season. They had a separate slide of 15
in a row that same season en route to a 15-67 record.

The NBA single-season record is 23 consecutive losses, set by
Vancouver in 1995-96, and tied by Denver in 1997-98.

Rookie Eddie Griffin had career highs of 25 points and 13
rebounds for the Rockets, while Mobley added 18 points, and Norris
had 15 points and 10 assists.

"I got more minutes and more into the flow of the game,"
Griffin said. "I just felt comfortable. One thing I've noticed
with this coach, every time you get a play that works, he keeps
going to it. People think of me as a big-game player. I just try to
do as much as I can."

The Rockets kept it close in the first half, holding the Lakers
to a 53-51 lead at intermission. But Fisher made three 3-pointers
in the third quarter, and the Lakers led 82-68 lead to start the
final period.

The Lakers led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter
despite Griffin's 19 first-half points. His career best for an
entire game before Thursday was 16 points.

"As I said before the game, you don't know what you're going to
get out of players you've never seen before," Jackson said. "We
gave some guys career highs. They kept them in the game."

Game notes
The Rockets have used 10 starting lineups in their
injury-filled season. ... Some Lakers have ties to the Rockets. Joe
Bryant, father of Lakers guard Kobe, played for Houston in 1982-83
and averaged 10 points in 81 games. Lakers forward Robert Horry has
four championship rings, two each with the Rockets and Lakers. ...
Lakers play-by-play announcer Chick Hearn, recovering from heart
surgery, missed his first game at the microphone since Nov. 20,
1965, a string of 3,338 consecutive games.