Lamar Odom had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and the Lakers held on
to give Tomjanovich a victory over the Houston Rockets 84-79
The Lakers blew a 22-point lead they held in the third quarter,
but still managed to give Tomjanovich a win over his former team.
"I'm very relieved," Tomjanovich said. "This wasn't an ideal
situation. We're just getting to know each other as a team. We've
had other situations on the road where we needed to turn it up and
we weren't able to respond, and tonight we did."
In an emotional pregame ceremony, Tomjanovich was honored for
his 33 years of service to the Houston organization as a player,
scout, assistant coach and head coach. He led the Rockets to NBA
championships in 1994 and 1995.
Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson presented Tomjanovich
with a portrait of the coach with his hands raised in celebration.
At the bottom was Tomjanovich's trademark motto: "Never
underestimate the heart of a champion."
"I started thinking about all the things that have happened to
me, and all the people that have been so good to me in my life,"
Tomjanovich said. "It's amazing. It's like a fairy tale.
Everything was good, even if we hadn't won. But for the team, this
was a big, big win. But we still have a lot of work to do before we
Tomjanovich had his new team way ahead early in the third
quarter, despite a strong performance by Yao Ming who had 32 points
and seven rebounds. Jim Jackson added 15 for the Rockets.
"He (Yao) is so big and they are so very well coached, our guys
looked little beside him," Tomjanovich said. "There are a lot of
good things and there are some negatives, too. At least we didn't
foul at the end of the game in necessary situations."
Kobe Bryant was only 2-for-7 in the first half but he scored the
Lakers' first nine points of the third quarter, and Los Angeles
took a 59-37 lead with 8:13 left in the period for its biggest
That's when Yao and the Rockets used a 23-7 run to make it 66-60
heading into the fourth. Yao had 11 points in the quarter.
The Rockets kept the charge going on a string of three straight
3-point baskets that cut the Lakers' lead to 75-73 with 7:21 to go.
Charlie Ward's 3-pointer with 5:30 left made it 76-75 and gave
Houston its first lead since the first quarter.
The game was tied for the final time at 78-78 on a short
turnaround jumper by Yao with 3:15 to play. Bryant's free throw
with 1:35 left put the Lakers ahead for good.
Bryant had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Chucky Atkins finished
with 10 points for Los Angeles.
"Looking at it from my eyes, any time a coach has done as much
for a city as Rudy T has and the people embrace him like the people
in Houston do, I'm happy we were able to get a win for him, because
we knew it mean so much to him," Atkins said.
The Lakers trailed only briefly in the first half despite 16
points by Yao in the first two quarters and took a 47-35 lead at
intermission. Houston's shooting kept the Rockets playing catch-up
in the first half when they hit only 35 percent from the field.
Houston's second-half charge did little to please Rockets coach
Jeff Van Gundy.
"Right now, we're lacking in all-around competitive nature,"
Van Gundy said. "We need to play harder from start to finish. Our
guys need to understand what you have to put into it to get
something out of it. Right now we're sorely lacking."
The Lakers played their fourth game in five nights. ... The
Rockets lead the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage. ... The Lakers
are 3-0 this season when holding opponents under 100 points. They
are 0-4 when the opponent exceeds 100. ... Tracy McGrady sat out
his second straight game for the Rockets with a right hip strain
and was replaced by Bostjan Nachbar in the starting lineup.