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Rockets shake off a poor start to blow out the Lakers

The Rockets held the Lakers to under 100 points despite an ugly beginning and routed L.A. in the first game of a Staples Center back-to-back.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

A red-hot James Harden scored 31 points on 10-17 shooting in just 27 minutes, while Dwight Howard had 14 points and 15 rebounds for his 9th straight double-double to lead the Rockets over the L.A. Lakers 112-95.

Despite the final result, the game didn't start out well, when the Rockets came out two steps slow on defense, giving up a season-high 36 points in the first period on 73.7% shooting.

Houston's offense was able to keep them within four points at 36-32, as Harden dropped 12 in the period (more than he scored all night against Cleveland), and the Rockets scored repeatedly inside for 26 points in the paint in the first frame, including this doozy on a put back from Clint Capela.

The Rockets really changed the complexion of the game in the second quarter when the bench unit, led by Montrezl Harrell, turned up the heat defensively on the Lakers. After their sluggish first period, the Rockets held L.A. to just 9 points through the first 6:30 of the second quarter, and Houston continued to score inside to take a 60-57 halftime lead.

If the second quarter set the stage, the third frame sealed the deal, as the Rockets came sprinting out of the halftime gates on a 17-4 run that ultimately iced the game. Harden hit three triples during the spurt, and as Houston pushed the lead to up to 19 points, Harden and Howard took a seat, which eventually became taking the rest of the night off.

In addition to the big nights from the superstars, the Rockets also got 14 points and 11 rebounds from Capela and 12 points and 5 assists from Ty Lawson, who played 31 minutes with Patrick Beverley out nursing a sore ankle. The duo also combined for a lovely oop in the first half.

Houston also got 13 points from Trevor Ariza, 10 from Marcus Thornton, and 10 points and 8 rebounds from Harrell. The Rockets shot 48.4 percent from the floor and overcame a 6-21 night from deep with a season-high 70 total points in the paint.

Houston held the Lakers to just 45.1 percent shooting despite L.A.'s scorching opening stanza, and they also out-rebounded the Lakers 40-33, their 20th consecutive victory when winning the battle on the boards.

The Rockets even found 5 minutes of garbage time for human victory cigar K.J. McDaniels. He did very K.J.-like things, blocking 2 shots in those 5 minutes, while also shooting 0-3 and turning the ball over once.

The Lakers were led by 20 points from Lou Williams and 16 from Jordan Clarkson. Kobe Bryant scored 5 points while dishing out 9 assists.

The Rockets move to 22-20, and have now won 6 out of their last 7 games, with the only blemish in that time coming at the hands of the Eastern Conference-leading Cavs. They're also now 10-2 when holding their opponent to under 100 points.

The Rockets stay in L.A. to play the Clippers at the Staples Center tomorrow night. The Clips are without Blake Griffin and may be without center Deandre Jordan, who's battling pneumonia and may not be ready for tomorrow night's tip-off.

There'd be no better rebound from the Cavs loss than leaving L.A. with a 2-0 sweep.