Lakers overcome Rockets in testy Game 2
Desperate to salvage a split at home, the Los Angeles Lakers blitzed Houston in the first quarter. The Rockets withstood the initial charge, and stuck around for another rough-and-tumble game that turned chaotic.
This time, though, the Lakers defended their home court.
Kobe Bryant scored 40 points, Pau Gasol added 22 points and 14 rebounds and Los Angeles won Game 2 111-98 on Wednesday night to even the Western Conference semifinal series.
"It was a good physical game. The intensity is elevated because a lot is at stake," Bryant said. "It's good for us."
Ron Artest, one of two players ejected in the game, scored 25 points and Carl Landry added a career playoff-high 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who overcame a 14-point deficit in the first half only to trail most of the second half.
Game 3 is Friday night in Houston.
Houston's Yao Ming finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds after picking up three fouls in the first half.
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"We fight back," Yao said. "Everybody played very physical and try to control the tempo."
Emotions boiled over in the second half, with Derek Fisher of the Lakers and Artest getting ejected and technical fouls assessed to Bryant, Artest, Luis Scola, Luke Walton and Lamar Odom, who had 11 rebounds.
"It's the playoffs," Bryant said, "this is what it's about."
Artest was sent off the court by referee Joe Crawford with 6:57 remaining in the game after he pointed across the court at Bryant and made a gesture near his throat. Artest complained that he was elbowed in the throat by Bryant under the basket.
"We are playing basketball, there is a lot of contact taking place," Bryant said. "If you are going to be physical you have to expect to get physical back."
But Bryant didn't think Artest deserved to be ejected for what he called "good playoff basketball."
Neither did Artest.
"I knew I was going to get a technical foul. The point was to let the refs know this guy was elbowing me," he said. "I know I went over there with no punches, no shoves to the face, just a confrontation. I told him, 'You're hitting the wrong person. Don't you know you're hitting Ron Artest?' I'm not retaliating, I'm done with that."
In the final 30 seconds of the third quarter Scola, Odom and Walton all were hit with technicals after they jawed at the Lakers' end of the court.