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Blake's last-second shot lifts Lakers to victory

Updated: 2013-11-09 08:06
By Associated Press in Houston ( China Daily)

Los Angeles coach Mike D'Antoni paid a lot of attention to former Lakers center Dwight Howard down the stretch.

He needed to get the ball out of the hands of Houston Rockets guard James Harden and figured the best way to do that was with the "hack-a-Howard" defense.

The strategy worked perfectly, with Howard missing seven late free throws to allow the Lakers to keep it close before Steve Blake hit a wide-open 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining to lift them to a 99-98 victory Thursday night.

"I think it went real well because we took Harden out of the game," D'Antoni said.

Howard spurned the Lakers to sign an $88 million deal with Houston, joining Harden and a team that made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009.

A somber Howard called his free throw shooting "terrible," but wouldn't concede that this loss was more difficult because it was against his former team.

"Every loss hurts," said Howard, who had 15 points and 14 rebounds. "Nobody likes to lose. It's very upsetting that we lost the way we did."

D'Antoni's decision to foul Howard was surprising because last season he said that the hack-a-whoever defense was bad for the game.

"That doesn't mean you're not going to use it, if it's out there," he said. "I'm not crazy."

Houston led by two points before Blake took the ipass from Jodie Meeks and made the game-winning shot.

The Rockets were disappointed they let Blake get free for the winning basket.

"Guys just kind of messed up on the play," Howard said. "It happens."

The Rockets had a chance to win it, but Patrick Beverley's 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the backboard.

"I was in a rhythm and then they started fouling Dwight," said Harden, who scored 35 points.

"It kind of slows us down. It slows our pace down and what we like to do. Good coaching."

Blake's last-second shot lifts Lakers to victory

The Rockets took their first lead since the first quarter on a dunk by Chandler Parsons following a steal by Harden that made it 93-91 with about four minutes left. Parsons left his arms outstretched as he came down from the dunk to wild applause from the home crowd. Harden had tied it up about a minute earlier on a 3-pointer.

The Lakers started fouling Howard every time he touched the ball after that, sending him to the line 12 times, but he made just five.

Meeks, who led the Lakers with 18 points, made a 3-pointer with less than 2 minutes remaining to cut the lead to two.

The Lakers struggled all last season amid reports that Howard and Kobe Bryant didn't get along, and were swept in the first round of the playoffs. Los Angeles could have offered him a 5-year contract worth $118 million, but he chose to make the move to Houston with a four-year deal.

"He made his choice, which is good," D'Antoni said of Howard. "You've got to respect that. He's fine and they're going to have a great team. I'm just happy for everybody because we won."

 Blake's last-second shot lifts Lakers to victory

Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard goes for a rebound against Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol during the fourth quarter of their NBA game on Thursday in Houston. The Lakers won 99-98. David J. Phillip / Associated Press

(China Daily 11/09/2013 page15)

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