The blowout seemed assured, but the Lakers were not going to just let the Houston Rockets roll all over them without having a say, and LeBron James was not going to let nemesis Dillon Brooks talk some trash without saying something back.
The Lakers fell behind by 30 points when coach Darvin Ham called a timeout with seven minutes and 34 seconds left, his team looking ragged, but starters James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, Taurean Prince and D’Angelo Russell all returned to the game anyway.
No, these Lakers would not quit that easily, especially after Brooks was called for a flagrant foul one for smacking James in the eye in the fourth quarter of a game turning chippy and competitive.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Rui Hachimura and James cut the Lakers’ deficit to 10 points, but that was as close as they got before dropping a 135-119 game to the Rockets on Monday night at the Toyota Center.
Finally, with 2:13 left and the Lakers down by 16 points, James took a seat on the bench next to Davis, who had gone to the bench with 1:42 left in the third quarter and had not returned.
James had 23 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Russell, who was hit with a technical foul in the fourth quarter, had 23 points and five assists and Davis had 23 points and seven rebounds.
The Rockets had five players score in double figures, led by Jalen Green’s 34 points.
The Lakers complete a back-to-back at Atlanta on Tuesday night. Ham wasn’t very forthcoming when asked about the availability of James and Davis against the Hawks.
“We’ll get through tonight and see,” Ham said.
The game started getting chippy in the second quarter when Jarred Vanderbilt, the Lakers’ do-everything man and most active player, was ejected after receiving two technical fouls off incidents involving Brooks. Reaves had just scored when Vanderbilt shoved Brooks and was given a technical. A few seconds later, Vanderbilt flicked Brooks in the ear, earning his second technical and ejection.