The Houston Rockets’ dazzling transition game never relented Wednesday night, even as they led by more than 30 points late in the fourth quarter.
Early and late, the Rockets’ flashy game did in the injury-riddled Lakers, who were routed, 134-95, at Toyota Center.
It was the Lakers’ fourth consecutive loss and their third loss of the season by 30 or more points.
“We just didn’t compete,” Lakers guard Lou Williams said. “Simple game to me. Any time you ask me questions I’m not going to give you answers about numbers. It’s a simple game. You play hard, play smart, you play together, you give yourself an opportunity to win. We didn’t do any of those things.”
The Rockets scored 42 points off the Lakers 28 turnovers and 68 points in the paint. They made 54% of their shots and were led by James Harden, who had 25 points and eight assists, and Eric Gordon who added 26 points while making eight of 12 three-point attempts.
Lakers forward Julius Randle notched his seventh double-double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
“The amount of transition baskets they got where they just literally got a rebound, threw it ahead for layups,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said. “The turnovers. You’re not gonna win a road game in the NBA, I don’t care how good you are, when you give up the type of numbers we did tonight.”
In the first quarter that meant a steal by Trevor Ariza, who finished the deed with a driving dunk, or a steal by Harden, who swung the ball to Gordon for a three-pointer to give the Rockets their first double-digit lead.
In the fourth quarter that meant Patrick Beverley stealing the ball, then passing to Montrezl Harrell for a transition dunk that gave the Rockets a 40-point margin.
Houston led by as many as 18 points in the first quarter, which ended with the Rockets up, 43-27. The Lakers clawed back in the second, even cutting the ’ lead to seven at one point.
Then as the halftime buzzer sounded, Williams sank a 66-foot heave, bringing the Lakers to within 12.
It seemed perhaps that Williams’ three-pointer could push the Lakers to a more competitive second half.
It did not.
The Rockets scored 39 points in the third quarter, stretching their lead to as many as 39 points. The Rockets’ 106 points after three quarters tied a season high for Lakers opponents — the other team to do it was Golden State in a 43-point win the day before Thanksgiving.
The Lakers used their ninth different starting lineup of the season, with Marcelo Huertas at point guard, Jordan Clarkson at shooting guard, Timofey Mozgov at center, Randle at power forward and Luol Deng at small forward.
With the Lakers’ injury situation growing more dire,Walton reluctantly separated his dynamic second-unit guard combination of Clarkson and Williams. On Wednesday they were without center Tarik Black (sprained right ankle) and point guards D’Angelo Russell (left knee soreness) and Jose Calderon (right hamstring strain), who did not make the trip to Houston. Nick Young did travel with the team, but he is still recovering from a right calf strain.
“On the floor I don’t think about it, but I think we’re using it as an excuse or, I don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re not being ourselves,” Randle said of the injury situation.
The Lakers’ injured players are getting healthier, and some could return next week. In the meantime, Walton doesn’t want his team thinking about that.
“Obviously we’re missing key players, you’re gonna lose games,” Walton said, “but if we’re just sitting around as a team saying, ‘hey, let’s just wait for Nick and D’Angelo and this guy and that guy to get back,’ what kind of mind-set is that? You come out and you play hard.”