Rockets hunt for help for Harden against Lakers
For lengthy stretches on Wednesday, it appeared that Houston Rockets guard James Harden was alone on an island, scoring at will because the situation demanded it.
But even Harden could carry the short-handed Rockets only so far, especially when guard Eric Gordon, who returned from an eight-game injury hiatus only to depart with residual knee soreness, proved unfit to help Houston close the game.
What remained was Harden scoring a season-high 58 points, only to run out of gas in a 145-142 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
Houston coach Mike D'Antoni must remain creative with his rotations as the Rockets (25-19) host the Los Angeles Lakers (25-21) on Saturday at Toyota Center.
He utilized super-small lineups against the Nets, with the Rockets launching an NBA-record 70 3-pointers. Without center Clint Capela, who underwent surgery on Thursday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, the Rockets lacked the inside heft to score consistently in the paint.
The alternative was that avalanche of deep shots.
"That's our reputation," Harden said. "That's the lineup we have. We got guys injured and banged up so ... we just got to figure lineups out. And (D'Antoni has) done a great job of it."
The Rockets were without Capela and played their 13th consecutive game without guard Chris Paul (hamstring). Starting forward Danuel House Jr. was unavailable after a contract dispute left him stranded with the G-League affiliate, and reserve forward James Ennis was also sidelined after injuring himself in a freak accident.
"We gotta do what we gotta do," D'Antoni said. "We go small because -- guess what? -- we gotta go small."
The Lakers improved to 5-7 without LeBron James on Thursday, winning 138-128 in overtime at Oklahoma City. James (groin) has been cleared to resume practicing with the team when the Lakers return to Los Angeles from their two-game road trip, which concludes in Houston.
James, who last played during a 127-101 win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas, is unlikely to play when the Lakers host the West-leading Warriors on Monday at Staples Center. James leads the Lakers in scoring (27.3 points per game), rebounding (8.3) and assists (7.1).
Lakers coach Luke Walton stuck with the starting lineup change he implemented the previous game, a 107-100 home victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. The results were mixed, with the Lakers surrendering 39 first-quarter points. It wasn't until Walton went to his reserves at the start of the second quarter before the Lakers rallied.
The Lakers carried that momentum throughout, rallying from a 17-point deficit to grab the lead at halftime. They then reclaimed control in the extra period after blowing a late lead in regulation.
Walton said the Lakers flashed their potential, even when their best player wasn't available to rescue them.
"Different people making plays is how we have to compete," Walton said.
"It was a slow start; we did the same things wrong we did against them in the first game (a 107-100 loss Jan. 2) ... but really proud of the way our guys just fought, fought, fought and found a way to win that game."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 19, 2019