Lakers, LeBron Give Five-Star Performance Against Houston Rockets

LeBron James is serious about winning a title.

And though the Lakers’ play all season has anchored them to appear as no more than a play-in team, it’s always encouraging to see James use the full tank. You’d want to be on that team.

The Los Angeles Lakers (17-18) beat the Houston Rockets (10-25), 132-123, Tuesday night in what was destined to be the Lakers’ first break after a five-game losing skid.

Making the comeback effort special for the Lakers was a starting role at the 5 for LeBron — his first time experimenting as a team’s primary center in his 19-year career.

Using that extensive basketball acumen, he grasped the assignment against the Rockets, recording 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

An additional Laker player to step up — a rare saying as of late — was Carmelo Anthony. The vet scored 24 big points — made splashier by the 4-of-8 shooting from deep.

Russell Westbrook had a strong performance against his former team, scoring 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting — lightly shaking off Christmas Day’s 4-of-20 showcase. Westbrook finished with a triple-double, adding 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

Lakers guard Malik Monk was another key contributor, scoring 25 points in 40 minutes. Monk received a pass from the perceptive James in the fourth for a hard slam, relaying momentum for LA fans to stay hopeful in a potential win, which remained a close call until the final minutes. After finishing with 20 points in his last contest, Monk has proved to be a deserved staple in interim coach David Fizdale’s game plan.

LA’s only issue(s) on the night stemmed from the defense: allowing Houston to get hot from the three-point line and the new small-ball lineup with LeBron and Carmelo Anthony at center often appearing undersized against Houston’s bigs.

Three Houston starters managed to score over 20 points. Rookie Jalen Green was exceptional from 3, leading a Houston offense shadowing the Lakers all evening. Christian Wood and Kevin Porter, Jr. were the other premier scorers.

While it’s safe to assume the Lakers may reserve this new lineup by the time they face off against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, it was an encouraging adjustment to witness from LeBron.

Soon to be 37, James can only hope that a relenting of the team’s issues this season (e.g., injuries, COVID protocols) will keep them on a path to the postseason and with enough chemistry to challenge the Western Conference’s prime competition.

In the meantime, the LA fan base may need to cope with holding on to a seemingly determined Westbrook to steady the ship until Anthony Davis’ return.

And that Davis will inherit the championship outlook being set by their current stars in Westbrook and James.

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