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Lakers fall to Rockets and again fail to win back-to-back games

Lakers fall to Rockets and again fail to win back-to-back games
Rockets guard James Harden is fouled by Lakers center Roy Hibbert during a game on Dec. 17. (Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

For the fourth time this season, the Lakers were unable to build a winning streak, falling to the Houston Rockets, 107-87, on Thursday night at Staples Center.

After defeating the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, the Lakers fell behind quickly to Houston, trailing by as many as 16 points in the first quarter.

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The Lakers managed to close the gap to four points in the second quarter, but the Rockets pushed their lead back to 13 by halftime.

Kobe Bryant came alive in the third quarter, rising for a rare dunk, posterizing second-year Rockets forward Clint Capela. The Staples Center crowd responded with a standing ovation. Bryant made five of six shots for 10 points in the quarter.

The Lakers kept the score close through the first few minutes of the fourth, with Julius Randle's layup cutting the Lakers' deficit to five with 9:02 left.

Houston responded immediately, scoring 11 consecutive points until Bryant made a three-pointer to end a four-minute scoreless drought.

The Lakers tried to extend the game by intentionally fouling former Lakers center Dwight Howard, but the gap was too wide and the Rockets finished with the 20-point victory.

James Harden was the game's leading scorer, finishing with 25 points, six rebounds and six assists. Howard finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, converting 10 of his 18 free throws. Terrence Jones added 16 points while Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza each scored 13. Capela contributed 10 points and 12 rebounds.

The Rockets shot only 38.6% from the field but were solid from three-point range (12 of 31 for 38.7%). They made 27 of 42 free throws (64.3%) from the line.

The Lakers shot 42.9% from the field, 20.8% (5 of 24) from long range and 55.6% (10 of 18) from the line.

Bryant led the team with 22 points, shooting nine for 16 from the field. Randle scored 18 points with 10 rebounds off the bench. Lou Williams scored 14, Jordan Clarkson 12 and Larry Nance Jr. 11.

D'Angelo Russell had a difficult night, missing eight of nine shots and scoring only two points. The rookie guard led the Lakers with seven assists but had four turnovers.

The Lakers (4-22) next visit the Oklahoma City Thunder (17-9) on Saturday. The Rockets (13-14) will stay in Los Angeles, playing the Clippers (16-10) on Saturday.

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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