Photo: Without Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard Lakers Struggle, Lose 4th Game in a Row
Point guard Steve Nash achieved a career milestone by dishing out his 10,000th assist, but the injury-riddled Los Angeles Lakers plunged deeper into crisis with a 125-112 loss to the Houston Rockets.
Playing without center Dwight Howard and power forward Pau Gasol, the Lakers’ defense was virtually non-existent Tuesday night against a younger, more athletic team.
Los Angeles took a six-point lead in the first quarter and was still up by three at the half, but the Rockets’ offense went into overdrive in the third quarter - scoring 38 points - and then cruised to victory down the stretch.
Star shooting guard James Harden led the way for the Rockets with 31 points and four of his teammates also scored in double figures at the Toyota Center in Houston.
With the win, the Rockets improved to 21-14 and are currently in sixth place in the Western Conference standings.
The Lakers were led by Metta World Peace, who scored 24 points, while Kobe Bryant added 20 points on an inefficient 8-of-22 from the field in a losing effort.
Nash, meanwhile, dished out 10 assists to become just the fifth player in NBA history with 10,000 assists for his career, joining John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson.
The Lakers, who are now in 11th place in the Western Conference with a record of 15-19, need to get healthy and come together as a team quickly to make the playoffs.
High expectations surround the Lakers this season after the offseason acquisitions of Howard, a three-time defensive player of the year who is out with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and Nash, a two-time league MVP who also missed time earlier in the season due to a leg injury.
The team struggled out of the gates under then-head coach Mike Brown, briefly got on track under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, and has suffered from injuries and poor play again since Mike D’Antoni took the reins in late November.
In other action Tuesday night in the NBA, the Miami Heat’s rebounding woes continued in an 87-77 road loss to the Indiana Pacers.
The defending champions, who were pummeled on the boards in a loss earlier this month to the Chicago Bulls, were outrebounded by the Pacers 55-36.
Indiana also dominated the offensive glass by a margin of 22-7, which translated into a big 91-68 edge in field-goal attempts. That allowed the Pacers to win the game comfortably despite making just 36 percent of their shots from the field.
Elsewhere, the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 109-89 for their fourth straight win, the Milwaukee Bucks cruised past the Phoenix Suns 108-99 in Jim Boylan’s debut as head coach, and the Minnesota Timberwolves knocked off the Atlanta Hawks 108-103.