With Kobe Bryant nowhere to be found, the Lakers turned to the Blake Mamba.
Veteran guard Steve Blake drained a game-winning, three-point shot with 1.3 seconds remaining to lift L.A. past the Houston Rockets 99-98 on Thursday night at Toyota Center. Blake arced his decisive shot over the outstretched arm of Dwight Howard, who was playing his first regular-season game against the Lakers since spurning them for the Rockets in the offseason.
“They hit a tough shot. I think they just had confidence (shooting) all game," Howard said after the game, via the Rockets' official website. "In the first half, I think they shot 14 out of 17 or something like that on 3's. Once you give a team rhythm like that, it's tough to come back from.”
Thanks in part to a hot shooting from beyond the arc, the Lakers rushed out to a 36-19 lead after one quarter and held a 64-50 lead at halftime. The Rockets would rally to grab the lead in the fourth quarter but Howard's cold shooting from the free throw line -- and the Lakers' decision to foul him repeatedly -- would derail the late surge led by James Harden.
"I was in a rhythm, and then they started fouling Dwight," Harden said after his 35-point performance in the loss, via The Associated Press. "It kind of slows us down. It slows our pace down and what we like to do. Good coaching."
Trailing the Rockets 98-96 with 10.9 seconds remaining, the Lakers called a timeout. With Bryant nowhere near the huddle as he works his way back from offseason Achilles surgery, the Lakers needed another endgame hero. After one botched inbounds play, the Lakers reset with 3.4 seconds to play. This time, Blake received the inbounds pass cleanly and rose up for his shot. The Blake Mamba nailed it -- right over Howard.
Laker Nation: I know all the @Lakers fans are saying "Take that Dwight!"
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) November 8, 2013