Porter scores 27 points, Rockets beat short-handed Lakers

Houston Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr., center, passes the ball from between Los Angeles Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt (2) and guard D'Angelo Russell (1) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke) (Michael Wyke, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – Kevin Porter Jr. scored 27 points and the Houston Rockets beat the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers 114-110 on Wednesday night.

Los Angeles scored five points, with a 3-pointer from Rui Hachimura, to get within four early in the fourth quarter. The Rockets countered with an 8-0 run, with the first five points from rookie Jabari Smith Jr., to push it to 96-83.

The Rockets were up by eight with 7.2 seconds to go before Malik Beasley hit a 3 for the Lakers to cut the lead to 114-109. Austin Reaves then got a steal and Porter fouled him with 0.3 seconds remaining. It was ruled a Flagrant-1 foul after a review, but Reaves made just 1 of 2 free throws and Houston held on.

Porter was disappointed that Houston let it get that close in the final seconds.

“We got a little comfortable,” he said. “We were up like eight or 10 ... when our youth kind of showed right there. We'll learn from that. We've got to stay focused until the last buzzer.”

It’s the second straight victory for the Western Conference-worst Rockets, who beat Boston on Monday night.

Already without LeBron James because of an injury, the Lakers were also missing Anthony Davis against Houston. Davis, who had 35 points and 17 rebounds in a win over New Orleans on Tuesday night, isn’t playing both games of back-to-back per doctors’ orders after coming back from a right foot injury.

“Houston — young team — and regardless of what their record is, they came to play,” coach Darvin Ham said. “And we felt them. They made us feel them in terms of them attacking the paint, them getting hits... (and) we should have been the ones playing with that type of edge.”

Reaves had 24 points off the bench and D’Angelo Russell added 18 as the Lakers lost for the second time in three games as they fight to stay in line for one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Porter had 18 points before halftime despite missing the last two minutes of the second quarter after sustaining a cut about his left eye. He was bleeding profusely as he held a towel to the cut as he walked to the locker room. He returned to start the third quarter with a band-aid covering the cut.

He said that he received some stitches and had glue put on the cut at halftime.

Coach Stephen Silas was impressed with Porter's peformance.

“He was great right from the start,” he said. “He was aggressive. He was making plays for his teammates... just a solid, complete game.”

Houston took advantage of the absence of Davis to dominate in the paint where the team outscored the Lakers 78-46.

The Rockets led by as many as 18 in the first half and had a 62-48 lead at halftime. That deficit came a night after Los Angeles led 75-40 at halftime after making a franchise-record 15 3-pointers in the first two quarters.

The Lakers used a 9-2 run to get to 79-74 with about three minutes left in the third quarter. Troy Brown Jr. made the first five points in that stretch and Wenyen Gabriel capped it with a basket.

But the Los Angeles offense went cold after that and didn’t score for the rest of the quarter as Houston got baskets from Jae’Sean Tate and Jalen Green to lead 83-74 after three.

TIP-INS

Lakers: James was out for the ninth straight game with a right foot injury. Mo Bamba missed a fifth straight game with a sprained left ankle. … Beasley had 16 points. ... Jarred Vanderbilt added 13 points with 11 rebounds. ... Gabriel had a career-high 15 rebounds.

Rockets: Alperen Sengun had 13 points and nine rebounds in his return after sitting out Monday night with a groin injury. … Kenyon Martin Jr. had 16 points and eight rebounds. ... Green scored 11 points.

HOUSTON'S GROWTH

Despite his team's record this season, Silas has seen growth in the Rockets in recent weeks.

“All of them have some sort of chip on their shoulders it seems,” he said. “They are young but they’re all competitive… and they really want to do the right thing. Sometimes we just don't because we're young, but they're a fun group to coach because they're all good guys.”

UP NEXT

Lakers: Host Dallas on Friday night.

Rockets: Host New Orleans on Friday and Sunday nights. ___ AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports