Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 3)

Series starts 12/18

Game 1: Sunday, December 18th
Game 2: Wednesday, February 8th
Game 3: Sunday, April 2nd

Lakers 89

(25-24, 13-16 away)

Rockets 78

(19-30, 6-16 home)

7:30 PM ET, February 8, 2006

Toyota Center, Houston, TX

1 2 3 4 T
LAL 17 27 26 1989
HOU 17 16 29 1678

Top Performers

LAL: K. Bryant 32 Pts, 3 Reb, 9 Ast, 6 Stl, 1 Blk

Hou: R. Alston 16 Pts, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

Lakers beat Rockets, end foue-game losing streak

HOUSTON (AP) -- Kobe Bryant was stunned to find so many gaps in the Houston Rockets' defense.

Once the shock wore off, Bryant took advantage, scoring 32 points and dishing out a season-high nine assists as the Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak with an 89-78 victory Wednesday night.

"I started coming off the pick and roll and I was so wide open," said Bryant, who went 13-for-29 from the field. "It really threw me off at first. It's been two months since I've been that wide open."

And when Bryant wasn't burning the Rockets, Brian Cook was. Cook added 27 points and 10 rebounds one night after scoring a season-high 28 in the Lakers' 102-87 loss at Dallas.

"A lot of other teams just focus on Kobe," Cook said. "I just hang around on the weak side and nights like tonight, Kobe gives it up."

Rafer Alston scored 16 and Yao Ming added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Rockets, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.

"We got too comfortable with ourselves with the winning streak," McGrady said. "It's very disappointing to come home and have an outing like this, myself included."

Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy ripped his team's effort after the game. He said the Rockets were equally lackadaisical in their shootaround.

"How little we put in the game, from the start of the day to the end of the game, was totally uninspiring," Van Gundy said. "We went through the motions, but didn't even fake it very well."

The game drew 18,291 fans -- a season high at the Toyota Center -- but those hoping to see a 1-on-1 duel between Bryant and All-Star Tracy McGrady left disappointed.

McGrady had only 11 points on 5-for-18 shooting. He went 1-for-6 from 3-point range and also had seven assists, four rebounds and two turnovers.

McGrady is 19-for-63 in Houston's last three games.

"Right now, I'm just in a really bad funk on offense and why? I don't know," McGrady said. "It's just very disappointing."

Neither star did much in the first quarter.

Bryant attempted only one shot, a layup off an inbound pass that Yao partially blocked. McGrady, meanwhile, missed his first six shots before finishing a fast break with a one-handed dunk.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson sensed that McGrady wasn't himself.

"He looks like he's injured to me," Jackson said. "Except for that dunk, he didn't seem to play with as much vim and vigor."

McGrady said he's physically fine -- he's just not playing well.

"I've got to bring more to the table on the offensive end," he said.

Bryant swished his first basket, a 3-pointer from the wing, with 10:16 left in the second quarter to give the Lakers a 22-19 lead.

But Bryant spent most of the half finding Cook, who was averaging only 7.3 points coming into the game. The 6-foot-9 forward started 7-for-10, most of them mid-range jumpers, and had 15 by the midpoint of the second quarter.

"That's a very important weapon to have, especially when you have somebody like Bryant," Van Gundy said.

After a slow start, Bryant hit five straight jumpers and the Lakers rebuilt their lead. Bryant had seven assists in the first half, but only one in the third quarter.

"I became much more assertive in the second half and took over the game," Bryant said.

While Bryant found his range, McGrady stayed quiet, scoring only two points in the third. He threw a bad pass late in the quarter that Bryant intercepted and turned into a fast break.

A minute later, Bryant scored on a drive to restore the Lakers' double-digit lead. With McGrady guarding him early in the fourth quarter, Bryant swished a deep 3-pointer for a 73-62 Lakers' lead.

The Rockets started the fourth quarter 2-for-8 and never made a serious charge.

"We didn't try hard enough," Van Gundy said. "It gives you pause to think what do we really have here? We should've been frothing at the mouth, like pit bulls. I so much want to have a team that really, really, really wants to play every day, every night."

The Lakers, who won in Houston for the first time since November 2004, play their next eight games at home.<

^Notes:@ Bryant also tied a career high with six steals. ...Houston Astros 2B Craig Biggio, C Brad Ausmus and 1B Jeff Bagwell had courtside seats. The Astros claim Bagwell is not fully recovered from a shoulder injury and is too disabled to play this season. Bagwell has said he'll be at spring training. During the first timeout, the Rockets' mascot asked Bagwell to throw a baseball into the stands. Bagwell laughed and responded, "No, I can't throw." ... Former Texas quarterback and Rose Bowl MVP Vince Young also attended the game.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 89 78
FGM-FGA 34-81 (.420) 32-77 (.416)
3PM-3PA 9-26 (.346) 9-20 (.450)
FTM-FTA 12-18 (.667) 5-10 (.500)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 14-48 9-40
Assists 23 21
Turnovers 11 15
Steals 8 6
Blocks 1 4
Fast Break Points 8 16
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 10 (1/0) 14 (1/0)
Largest Lead 18 3

Top Performers

Los Angeles
Kobe Bryant Bryant
Points: 32
Reb: 3
Ast: 9
Stl: 6
Blk: 1
Rafer Alston Alston
Points: 16
Reb: 3
Ast: 8
Stl: 2
Blk: 1