The Lakers rarely have entertaining games anymore.
They have good quarters. Maybe an entire half. They almost made it to three competitive quarters last week against Golden State, but not quite.
There was more than a slight been-there, done-that feeling Sunday — an engaging first half and pitiful second part in a 112-95 loss to the Houston Rockets.
It beat their sleepwalk the previous night against Utah but not much else as a three-point halftime deficit swelled to 19 points going into the fourth quarter at Staples Center.
Oh well. At least there was Dwight Howard to boo. He heard it from the crowd when he was introduced and whenever he touched the ball. Howard even joined in the fun by booing himself mockingly while checking back into the game in the second quarter.
In case anybody wondered, Howard started slowly this season and recently improved, putting up his ninth consecutive double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds Sunday.
He and Kobe Bryant will never really like each other, and it was funny to watch Bryant keep his right hand in the air a little longer than usual after making an 18-foot shot with Howard guarding him.
Bryant, by the way, passed Jerry West for second place on the Lakers’ all-time assist list. There was little to ponder beyond that for the Lakers. Maybe a look at their youth?
Julius Randle was back in the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 6. It came with an asterisk.
He replaced Larry Nance Jr., who sat out because of discomfort in his right knee. An MRI exam revealed nothing damaging and he was diagnosed with a sore knee, the Lakers said.
Randle had his first double-double in almost three weeks — 12 points, 11 rebounds — but you got the feeling his run with the starters would last only as long as Nance’s soreness.
Jordan Clarkson had 16 points and three assists, and D’Angelo Russell had 12 points and five assists.
No one on the Lakers really played any defense, though.
Houston (22-20) began Sunday as one of the NBA’s biggest underachievers, fresh off an unimpressive 77-point output Friday against Cleveland. The Lakers (9-34) were much kinder, giving up 94 points through three quarters.
James Harden had 31 points on efficient 10-for-17 shooting and Clint Capela scored 14 on six-for-eight accuracy.
“Being as young as we are, we just tend to, if it’s not falling or it’s not going well offensively, we start to hold our head down,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “And we forget that there’s still a basketball game going on and you’ve still got to defend at the other end.”
Bryant was in distributor mode from the start, gathering seven assists in the first 10 minutes as the Lakers actually led, 31-28.
His assist to Lou Williams in the second quarter was the 6,239th of his career, passing West and trailing only Magic Johnson (10,141 assists) among Lakers leaders.
“It’s an accomplishment that I’m really, really proud of,” Bryant said, not needing to add that everybody considered him a scorer first but he could pass the ball a bit too.
Bryant scored only five points Sunday on two-for-five shooting and picked up nine assists in 24 minutes.
After so many road games the first half of the season, excellent news arrived Sunday for the Lakers via a schedule break — they play only one game outside of California between now and Feb. 4.
Not-so-excellent news was also delivered, the Lakers falling to a less-than-desirable 5-13 at Staples Center.
They have a lot more of these games left. Maybe the entertainment factor will eventually last a full 48 minutes. Maybe not.