Short-handed Lakers fall short against Western Conference-worst Rockets

HOUSTON, TEXAS - MARCH 15: Kevin Porter Jr. #3 of the Houston Rockets drives ahead of Troy Brown Jr. #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Toyota Center on March 15, 2023 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets’ Kevin Porter Jr. (3) drives ahead of Lakers’ Troy Brown Jr. (7) during the first half on Wednesday in Houston. (Carmen Mandato / Getty Images)

At the end of the Lakers’ bench sat Anthony Davis and LeBron James, both of them dressed in their gear, both unable to help their teammates because of injuries.

Davis didn’t play because the Lakers held him out of the back-to-back game to keep his right foot stress injury from flaring up and James was out with right foot soreness.

So, it was left up to D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Austin Reaves and the rest of the group to carry on for the Lakers against a Houston Rockets team with the second-worst record in the NBA.

Still, the Rockets posed a threat for the Lakers because they had just defeated the Boston Celtics in their previous game and this young Houston team has a bunch of athletic and skilled players looking to make things difficult for teams either in the playoffs or fighting for play-in seeding.

The Lakers found this to be true after losing to the Rockets 114-110 Wednesday night at Toyota Center.

Without Davis’ defensive presence inside, the Rockets feasted in the paint.

Since the Lakers offered little resistance, the Rockets scored 48 points in the paint in the first half, which helped them build a 18-point lead. They finished the game with 78 points in the paint.

The Lakers did give a better and more energized effort in the third and fourth quarters, getting to within four points in the final 12 minutes of the game.

But the Rockets responded with three consecutive three-pointers to push their lead to 13 points, essentially putting an end to the Lakers’ slim chances.

And even with five players scoring in double figures, the Lakers couldn’t overcome their poor shooting.

They shot 37.4% from the field and 25% from three-point range.

Reaves led the Lakers with 24 points off the bench.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.