LOS ANGELES — LeBron James produced his 31st double-double, Kyle Kuzma chipped in 23 points and the visiting Los Angeles Lakers turned a third-quarter defensive clinic into a 124-115 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday.
The Lakers delivered an efficient offensive display without their leading scorer, Anthony Davis, by following James’ lead. James paired a team-high 31 points with a game-high 12 assists to steward the Lakers. Their defensive might turned the tide in the third, which they won 32-17.
The Rockets shot just 21.4 percent (6 of 28) in the quarter and missed 10 of 11 3-point tries. Every attempt by a Houston ball-hander to penetrate the lane was met with a flurry of limbs, with the Rockets guilty of six turnovers in the period. One particular sequence was emblematic of the Lakers’ defensive effort, as JaVale McGee blocked a P.J. Tucker corner-3 attempt before immediately thwarting Rockets center Clint Capela on a dunk attempt.
McGee and former Rockets center Dwight Howard recorded three blocks each, while Danny Green had four steals. The Lakers posted 13 steals and nine blocks while limiting the Rockets to 12-for-37 shooting from behind the arc.
Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 20 points apiece for the Lakers, who shot 48.4 percent from the floor. Howard added 10 rebounds, and the Lakers totaled 24 second-chance points.
Russell Westbrook (35 points, nine rebounds, seven assists) and James Harden (34 points, seven assists) paced the Rockets, who have dropped three straight and four of five. Houston committed 20 turnovers.
The Rockets enjoyed a strong start behind Westbrook, leading by as many as 11 points in the first half as Westbrook tallied 22 points by the intermission. But Houston began to crumble under the weight of the Lakers’ defensive pressure, and when James converted his second consecutive driving layup at the 7:52 mark of the third, the Lakers led for the first time at 69-68.
The Lakers methodically pulled away, extending to their biggest lead at 104-88 on a Kuzma layup in the fourth.
PHOENIX SUNS 123 — BOSTON CELTICS 119
Devin Booker scored 39 points and fell an assist shy of his first career triple-double as visiting Phoenix held off undermanned Boston.
Booker added 10 rebounds, Deandre Ayton had 26 points and 15 boards and Mikal Bridges scored a career-high 26, as the Suns won for the fourth time in their last five. Dario Saric scored 13 with 11 rebounds and five assists.
Marcus Smart scored a career-high 37 points on a team-record-setting 11 3-pointers, but the Celtics fell for the sixth time in their last eight. Jayson Tatum scored 26 with 10 rebounds, and Gordon Hayward had 22 points, seven boards and seven assists. Boston played without starters Kemba Walker (left knee) and Jaylen Brown (thumb sprain).
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS 133 — NEW ORLEANS PELICANS 130
Kawhi Leonard scored 39 points, and Lou Williams had 32 as visiting Los Angeles defeated New Orleans in Leonard’s fifth consecutive game with more than 30 points in the absence of second-leading scorer Paul George
Despite being with George because of a hamstring injury, the Clippers had plenty of help. Montrezl Harrell added 24 points, and Landry Shamet scored 11. The Clippers outscored New Orleans 31-20 in the fourth quarter.
Derrick Favors (10-for-10 from floor) had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Brandon Ingram scored 21, JJ Redick tallied 19 while Lonzo Ball had a triple-double with 18 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for New Orleans. — Reuters