Pau Gasol and the Los Angeles Lakers understand that you can’t get to 60 wins by stringing together losses.
Gasol scored a season—high 30 points on 11—of—17 shooting Saturday night as the visiting Lakers bounced back from a bad loss with a 109—101 victory over the shorthanded Houston Rockets.
Kobe Bryant had 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who were coming off Friday’s 91—75 defeat at Oklahoma City in which they trailed by 33 points after three quarters and were held to a season—low in points.
“We tried to be aggressive and bounce back from a poor performance last night,” said Gasol, the Spanish All—Star forward. “It was nice to get the win.” The defending champions Lakers (54—19) set a regular—season goal of 60 wins and need to win six of their final nine games to reach that goal.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Bryant, who had nine turnovers in Friday’s loss. “This is the time of year we have to continue to tune things up.
Gasol said: “There are still nine or 10 games left and we have to continue to tighten things up.” The Rockets, playing without injured starters Kevin Martin and Shane Battier and using rookie Jermaine Taylor on Bryant, raced to a surprising 34—27 lead.
“He is one of the players I grew up watching and now I’m getting a chance to guard him,” said Taylor, who scored 15 points.
The Lakers cut the deficit to one point midway through the second period before taking charge with a 20—0 run led by Gasol’s eight points.
“We cracked it open in the second quarter and that gave up momentum,” said Gasol, who also had eight rebounds and four blocks.
“I thought Pau was nifty,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Los Angeles also clamped down on defense, forcing Houston to miss 10 straight shots, most of them from the perimeter. The Rockets went more than seven minutes without a basket.
“In the second quarter, they kept making shots and we became very impatient,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “We became very predictable and that made it easier for them.” The Lakers held a 62—45 halftime lead and extended it to 89—69 entering the final period as Gasol scored 10 points in the third quarter. The Rockets got no closer than the final margin.
Derek Fisher scored 15 points, Jordan Farmar added 14 and Lamar Odom 13 with 13 rebounds for the Lakers, who shot 57 percent (42—of—73) and held a 43—32 advantage on the glass. Los Angeles improved to 2—1 on its five—game road trip and maintained its six—game lead in the Western Conference.
Argentina’s Luis Scola had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Aaron Brooks scored 26 points for the Rockets (36—36), who have lost four in a row to fall 7 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the West.
Dallas 111, Golden State 90 French rookie Rodrigue Beaubois scored 21 of his season—high 40 points in the second quarter as the visiting Mavericks (48—25) ended a two—game skid and tied Denver for second place in the West.
Utah 103, Washington 87 Turkey’s Mehmet Okur had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Carlos Boozer added 22 and 10 and Deron Williams had 20 and 12 assists as the visiting Jazz handed the woeful Wizards their 15th straight loss.
Portland 112, New Orleans 101 Brandon Roy made 12—of—14 shots and scored 28 points for the visiting Trail Blazers, who have won six of their last seven. Rookie Darren Collison scored 22 points without missing a shot for the Hornets (34—40), who were eliminated from the West playoff race.
Chicago 106, New Jersey 83 Jannero Pargo scored 27 points and rookie Taj Gibson added 22 — both season highs — as the host Bulls stopped the Nets’ two—game winning streak.