Kobe, Lakers rout Rockets in Game 5 for 3-2 lead
Two days after being blindsided in Texas, the Los Angeles Lakers returned the favor.
Kobe Bryant needed only three quarters to score 26 points and the Lakers bounced back from their Game 4 flop, routing the Houston Rockets 118-78 on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
The top-seeded Lakers did everything they didn't do in Sunday's 99-87 loss at Houston - hustled, rebounded and played tight defense on Houston's smaller lineup, keeping Aaron Brooks in check and limiting wide-open shots.
On Sunday the Lakers trailed by 29 points. On Tuesday night, they had a 29-point lead by late in the second quarter, on a 3-pointer by Bryant, who led seven Lakers in double figures.
The 40-point margin tied the Rockets' worst playoff loss ever. They lost to the Dallas Mavericks 116-76 on May 7, 2005.
The Lakers can wrap up the series Thursday night in Houston.
Then again, they've been prone to lapses in these playoffs, which is probably why Bryant warned that it's not going to be easy to finish off the Rockets.
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"We've got to stay focused and understand that the effort we gave tonight is not going to be enough on Thursday. It's just not," Bryant said. "We're not playing some chump team. I don't care how many people they have out. This is a tough team, it's a tough team full of competitors."
The Rockets played their second game without Yao Ming, who sustained a season-ending stress fracture in his left foot in Game 3.
Bryant looked more like himself after being held to 15 points on Sunday. With the Lakers far ahead after holding the Rockets to only 15 points in each of the second and third quarters, he sat out the fourth period.
"We played just the opposite we did the last game," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "We turned it over in the first half, shot it poorly. We said if we turn it over against this team we're going to be in big trouble. That's exactly what we did.
"It just kind of fed their energy level. The second and third quarters are about as bad as we've played in a long time."