Howard says first Lakers loss bothers him
Normally when two teams meet for the second time in the regular season, one of the two teams is obviously disappointed with the first game.
When the Rockets meet the Lakers on Wednesday night at Toyota Center for the second time, it’s the Rockets that will be that disappointed team. Los Angeles handed the Rockets one of their many early season losses, they wish they could have back.
They actually lost to Los Angeles three times in the first two weeks of the season. Two of those losses were one-sided defeats against the other team from Los Angeles, the Clippers. Houston’s loss to the Lakers was a 99-98 defeat in a game that had the Lakers up early and the Rockets up late, before one of many late game miracle shots that would be scored on Houston during the first month of the season.
“I still remember that game like it was yesterday,” Jeremy Lin said. “That three at the end to win it for them, I think we all remember that.”
That 3-pointer came from Steve Blake off an inbounds play with just 3.4 seconds remaining. Lin, Pat Beverley and Dwight Howard had some miscommunication and it resulted in a wide open look for Blake who splashed it through the net with just 1.3 seconds remaining to give the Lakers the one point lead.
“Hopefully we're a little more mature in our defensive system,” Lin said. “We've had more experience, we understand it better and we've had it in place longer.”
The Rockets suffered through two other final second shots within that week. Just four days later at the end the first overtime against Toronto, Rudy Gay hit a 3-pointer to force double-overtime. That game, the Rockets still won.
Two days later, former Rockets guard James Anderson hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds to force overtime in a game the Rockets would ultimately lose.
But it’s the Lakers loss that stands out most to Lin and teammate Dwight Howard.
“It does for me,” Lin said. “There are just certain games that you feel like maybe we shouldn’t have lost that one. If only we had done something a little bit better, but those are learning experiences.”
For Howard, it was the first game against the Lakers since his offseason departure, a fact that he has downplayed from the moment he put on a Rockets uniform and continued to downplay this week leading up to this second meeting. But the ending was still tough for him to stomach.
“It bothers me, too. I was (ticked) off. I wanted to beat those guys,” Howard said. “(But) it's not like any banners or ribbons dropped after that shot. We’ve got more games to be played.
“We should’ve never let it get there. We have to come out and bust teams open from the beginning. We played around with them, they got a lead, we gave them confidence and they got a good win.”
Houston fell behind by as many as 19 points in the first half and still trailed by 14 points with less than 20 minutes remaining. But the Rockets went on a 40-20 run to hold a six point lead with just 2:40 remaining. Then Howard would miss three of four free throws, which set the stage for Blake’s heroics, which the Rockets clearly have not forgotten.