Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 11/13

Game 1: Saturday, November 13th
Game 2: Friday, January 7th
Game 3: Sunday, February 6th
Game 4: Thursday, April 7th

Rockets 114

(45-31, 23-16 away)

Lakers 100

(33-42, 22-16 home)

7:30 PM ET, April 7, 2005

STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

1 2 3 4 T
HOU 33 27 28 26114
LAL 26 25 25 24100

Top Performers

Hou: T. McGrady 27 Pts, 4 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Blk

LAL: C. Butler 24 Pts, 12 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

Houston ends 3-game skid; Phil Jax in the house

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Houston Rockets got back to winning despite not playing close to their best.

They were a lot more impressive than the slumping Los Angeles Lakers, who probably left former coach Phil Jackson shaking his head.

Tracy McGrady had 27 points and seven assists, five teammates scored in double figures, and the Rockets beat the Lakers 114-100 on Thursday night with Jackson among those in attendance.

The Rockets snapped a three-game losing streak and handed Los Angeles its fifth straight loss and 13th in 14 games -- something that's never happened to the proud franchise.

The Lakers (33-42) are assured of their first losing record since they went 33-49 in 1993-94, when they lost a franchise-record 10 straight to finish the season.

This year and that season are the only times they've failed to qualify for the playoffs since 1976.

"Great," was Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy's initial response when told that Jackson attended the game.

"He had an unbelievable run here," Van Gundy said. "He'll be wanted. I know that, obviously. He's a great, great coach."

Jackson watched from owner Jerry Buss' luxury suite. Jackson hadn't seen the Lakers play in person since last June, when he coached them in the NBA Finals. Shortly thereafter, the decision was made that he wouldn't return this season.

It's been speculated since Rudy Tomjanovich resigned as coach on Feb. 2 that Jackson would come back to the team he guided to championships in his first three seasons. But Jackson's agent has said his client wouldn't discuss a coaching job with anyone until after the season.

Jackson's name has come up as a possible candidate for several teams including the Lakers, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves.

"It's just a social visit," Lakers spokesman John Black said of Jackson's visit. "Dr. Buss had invited him several months ago to come to a game and sit in his suite with him. Phil's been traveling a lot; this was the first opportunity that Phil was in town when we had a home game."

Yao Ming scored 21 points, Scott Padgett had 16, Mike James and David Wesley added 13 each and Bobby Sura scored 11 for the Rockets (45-31), who went ahead for good late in the first quarter.

Caron Butler had 24 points and 12 rebounds, Kobe Bryant had his fifth triple-double of the season with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and Chucky Atkins scored 15 points for the Lakers.

Bryant, returning to action after sitting out one game because of a bruised right shin, shot just 4-of-19.

"I don't know, you'll have to ask him," Bryant said when asked how Jackson might have viewed the Lakers' performance.

"We're a young team, we're struggling," Bryant said. "We're just inconsistent. But we play hard."

When asked if he thought Jackson might return as the Lakers' coach, Bryant replied: "At this point, it really doesn't matter to me. I don't want to get caught up in speculation. We've still got a season to play."

The defensively challenged Lakers are 7-36 when they've allowed 100 or more points. Defense was something Jackson stressed during his five years as the team's coach.

"If you don't defend, you're not going anywhere in this league," Lakers coach Frank Hamblen said. "We scored enough points to win."

McGrady's 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring gave the Rockets a 104-92 lead with 4:45 remaining, and Yao outscored the Lakers 6-1 by himself to make it 110-96.

"We didn't play great, but we'll take it," Sura said. "The way we played tonight is not going to cut it against the better teams. It was better, but it won't be good enough."

The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 10-2 to finish the third quarter for an 88-76 lead. Atkins had scored seven straight points as the Lakers drew within four points.

Game notes

Rockets G Jon Barry missed his third game because of back spasms. ... Lamar Odom, the Lakers' second-leading scorer, hasn't given up hope of playing again this season. Odom, eligible to come off the injured list before Sunday's game in Sacramento, has missed 10 games because of a strained left shoulder. ... The Rockets played their first game since learning F Juwan Howard will miss the rest of the season because of a viral infection in his heart. Howard averaged 9.6 points and 5.7 rebounds in 61 games in his first season with the Rockets. ... Hamblen, who took over when Tomjanovich resigned, has said from the outset he'd like to see Jackson return as coach. "I think he'd be a great candidate for any job," Hamblen said before the game. "That's a situation he and Dr. Buss have to discuss. Phil's been a great closer his whole career. I don't know if he'd be a fixer-upper."

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 114 100
FGM-FGA 44-90 (.489) 33-87 (.379)
3PM-3PA 10-21 (.476) 10-29 (.345)
FTM-FTA 16-20 (.800) 24-28 (.857)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 14-46 16-44
Assists 24 21
Turnovers 10 10
Steals 6 6
Blocks 7 3
Fast Break Points 10 6
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (0/0) 19 (2/0)
Largest Lead 17 3

Top Performers

Los Angeles
Tracy McGrady McGrady
Points: 27
Reb: 4
Ast: 7
Stl: 0
Blk: 1
Caron Butler Butler
Points: 24
Reb: 12
Ast: 2
Stl: 1
Blk: 0