Julius Randle Goes Down, Lakers Get Buried 108-90


The season opener between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets was hyped with a Kobe vs Dwight meme, but after tip off that storyline was an afterthought.

James Harden made an opening statement that he is still the NBA’s best two guard, even with the return of a healthy Kobe Bryant. Harden exploded on the Lakers, scoring 22 effortless points in the first half, as the Rockets cruised to an easy victory, 108-90,at Staples Center.

The Lakers got off to a woeful start in the 1st, shooting 24% for the quarter as the Rockets jumped out to an 18-9 lead.They attempted 13 free throws, hitting 9. Jeremy Lin struggled against the pressure of Patrick Beverly in the early going and as a result the Lakers offense lacked fluidity. James Harden was aggressive scoring 11 points, most of which came from the free throw line.  Kobe Bryant scored 6 points on 3/7 shooting. Ronnie Price and Jordan Clarkson entered the game and led a quick 9-4 run to close the gap to 24-19, but the Rockets responded with a 7-0 run to close out the quarter, leading 31-19.

Dwight Howard mades his presence felt to start the 2nd, commanding double teams against the Laker’s second unit. Xavier Henry made a surprise appearance with the reserves but seemed out of sorts. Save for a couple of layups from Ed Davis and Julius Randle’s first professional basket, the 2nd unit struggled before Kobe Bryant re-entered the game at the 9:00 minute mark. The Rockets flirted with blowing open the game on numerous occasions, but the Lakers were each time able to keep a lid on it – until right before the half. The Rockets led 62-45. James Harden was dominant with 22 points. Kobe Bryant had 16 points and no other Laker scored more than 5. Terrance Jones broke out with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

In the third, Carlos Boozer took advantage of Dwight Howard receiving his 4th foul early in the period and scored 8 points as the Lakers made a 12-1 run to cut the deficit to 66-59 with 6:43 remaining. The Rockets answered with a 7-2 run of their own. Harden scored 10 in the quarter. Jeremy Lin scored 7 points and the Lakers offense was better, but Houston maintained a 16 point lead after 3, 85-69.

The 4th quarter went from bad to disaster. The Rockets blew open the game with a 16-6 run to open the period and effectively ended the competitive aspect of the game. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard got tangled up over a rebound and Howard clipped Bryant with an elbow to the jaw. He was hit was a flagrant foul and a war of words between Bryant and Howard ensued, with Bryant inviting Howard to a fight. Tempers calmed and then disaster struck. Prized rookie Julius Randle was hurt on a baseline drive and it appeared benign at first. Randle was unable to get up and a stretcher and air cast was brought out for him. The early word is that he has a broken right tibia, which is devastating to the Lakers organization and puts Randle’s rookie season in jeopardy.

The Rockets won 108-90.  James Harden finished with 32 points and 6 assists. Terrance Jones had 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. The Rockets shot 42.5% from the field, made 34 free throws, and 12 three pointers. For the Lakers, Kobe Bryant scored 19 points on 6-17 from the field. He also chipped in 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 30 minutes. Carlos Boozer scored 17 points with 7 rebounds. Ed Davis contributed 11 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. Jeremy Lin struggled with 7 points, on 1-5 shooting, 6 assists and 4 turnovers. The Lakers shot 35% from the field, had only 16 assists, and made 3 three pointers, finishing 3-10.

The Lakers play the Phoenix Suns tomorrow in Phoenix