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Harden, Rockets smash Lakers, win 118-95

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Rockets made easy work of the Lakers.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets started off their three-game road trip on the right foot as the team beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 118-95 Sunday night.

At this point, the Rockets seem like a broken record. There is a pattern in these games that we have all come to know.

Houston got off to a rather slow start. The Rockets looked like a team that had not played since Wednesday and it took a while for the ball to get in the hoop. On top of this, the Lakers looked strong out of the gates. LA’s raw athleticism made it look like this was going to be a long game. The game did turn out to be long — for the Lakers.

After the first quarter in which the Rockets were tied with the Lakers at 27, the Rockets won the second quarter 34-19 and took a 15 point lead into the half. James Harden and Eric Gordon both had 20 points each and both gave the Lakers fits all night long.

A criticism of the Rockets so far this season has been their inability to keep large leads, and tonight was no different. Despite going into the half with a double digit lead, the Lakers kept clawing back. With just 6:14 left in the third quarter, the Lakers were within three points of the Rockets. This was in large part of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had 10 points in the nearly six-minute stretch and had 16 in the entire game for the Lakers.

As soon as the Lakers made it a one-possession game, the Rockets pulled away and scored nine quick points, while the Lakers never made it closer than that point in the contest. Houston took a 12 point lead going into the fourth and the rest was history. The Rockets outscored the Lakers by 11 in the fourth and won the game by 23.

This team makes things look so easy. Even on nights where they don’t look their best, they can still blow teams out by 20+ points. It’s wild. As quickly as the Rockets can let teams in games, they can pull away in games. Tonight was your prototypical Rockets win.

James Harden led all scorers with 36 points and he also dished out nine assists. Chris Paul made four of seven threes en route to a 21-point scoring night, while Eric Gordon had a quiet, 2-point second half to match his incredible, noisy 20-point first half. He finished with 22 and a team-high +37!

For Los Angeles, Kyle Kuzma came off the bench to score a team-high 22 points and four of LA’s five starters ended in double figures. Brandon Ingram, who showed flashes of a franchise centerpiece and all-star tonight, had 18 and nine boards. The lone starter without double figures was Lonzo Ball, who failed to make a shot and ended with just two points.

The only downside in tonight’s win was Ryan Anderson tightening his back in the first half. There were original reports that he might return to the game after leaving early in the second, but he was ultimately declared out after halftime. Hopefully the injury is minor and he will be able to play Thursday when the Rockets visit Utah to face the Jazz.

Houston improved to 18-4 by winning its seventh straight game tonight and began its road trip with a win. The west coast trip continues Thursday when the Rockets visit the Jazz in Utah. Tipoff is at 9:30 PM CT.