Rockets crumble, lose 111-106

3-pointers from Rockets loss to Lakers

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets kicked back into action Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers following an extended All-Star break for everyone not named James Harden. The Rockets shook off a sloppy start to the contest to pull away with as much as a 19 point lead late in the third. Fueled by LeBron James, however, the Lakers would ignite a furious rally, ultimately defeating the Rockets 111-106. Houston is now 33-25, first in the Southwest Division by one half of a game, and fifth in the Western Conference.

Bad Sign

Blowing a 19-point lead at the end of a game is a terrible way to start a playoff push following the All-Star break. Perpetuating a losing streak, however, is even worse. This marks their third loss out of their last four, with their only win coming against a sub .500 Dallas Mavericks team. Their previous loss was dealt by a sub .500 Timberwolves squad, and a week before that we watched yet another meltdown where the Rockets blew a 26-point lead at home against the Thunder. Clint Capela's return to the center position should stabilize things in time, but the Rockets are beginning to look more like a first-round playoff exit candidate than an actual contender.

Good Sign

In spite of the loss, the Rockets' box score became noticeable for the first time in ages. With Clint Capela returning to action and Chris Paul back in rhythm, Harden wasn't leaned on to produce to the degree he has been asked over the past two months. Paul relieved him with a 23 point, 10 rebound, 9 assist performance, while Capela added 12 points and 11 rebounds in his return. In addition, both players contributed over 30 minutes in the contest. Harden was dreadful from three (2-10), but ended up 11-24 overall from the field to finish with 30 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. The effort extended Harden's streak of consecutive 30+ point scoring performances to 32 straight, placing him in sole position of second place behind Wilt Chamberlain's legendary 65.

The catch up game

Houston will have little time to recover from the disappointing loss before they take on the defending champs Saturday night. Based off recent history, the odds don't look too great for the Rockets against the Warriors, even if they have yet to lose to them this season. The Warriors are healthy, angry, and this time they'll be throwing DeMarcus Cousins at Houston. Once they get past Saturday, the schedule eases up considerably with contests against Atlanta, Charlotte, and Miami. Sporting a combined opponent winning percentage of 42 percent, it's not out of the realm of possibility to assume that the Rockets should be able to gain some of the ground they've lost over the past two weeks

Rockets player of the game

Chris Paul: 23 points, 9 assists, 10 rebounds

Lakers player of the game

LeBron James: 26 points, 6 assists, 11 rebounds

Up next

The Rockets stay on the road to face the Golden State Warriors Saturday night at 7:30 pm.

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James Harden returned to Houston Monday night and lost to the Rockets in double overtime. After the game, Harden complimented the maturation of the Rockets young players, and had some nice things to say about Houston.

Harden has a player option and can opt out after the season, which has some Rockets fans wondering if he would consider returning to Houston and taking over as the team's primary ball handler.

Plus, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has said he wouldn't rule out Harden returning at some point.

Be sure to watch the video above as we break down all the angles involving a potential fit for James Harden with Houston's young core of players, and much more.

If you enjoy the videos, subscribe on YouTube to get our latest content.

Catch The Bench with John and Lance weekdays from 7-10 AM on ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

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