April 10, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) moves the ball against Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart (5) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
12 April 2018: Chris Paul scored a game-high 22 points while James Harden added 21 points and 10 assists as the Houston Rockets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 105-99 on Tuesday at Staples Center in the penultimate regular-season game for both teams.
The Rockets (65-16) will cap the winningest season in franchise history at Sacramento on Wednesday while the Lakers (34-47) play the Clippers at Staples Center. With the victory, Houston avoided taking consecutive losses for the first time since early January.
Houston extended to a 96-80 lead before coach Mike D'Antoni removed most of his starters in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Lakers were without Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, yet they found inspiration in Andre Ingram, a 32-year-old rookie signed by the team to a 10-day contract on Monday. Ingram spent 10 seasons and logged 384 games in the developmental league before making his NBA debut. He scored 19 points in 29 minutes and made his first four NBA shots, including three from 3-point range.
Ingram wound up 4 of 5 from long distance, 6 of 8 from the floor and 3 of 3 at the foul line.
Josh Hart paced the Lakers with 20 points, and Julius Randle scored 17. Gerald Green scored 16 off the bench for Houston.
Ingram scored 11 points in the first half and hit a 3-pointer with 2:14 left in the third quarter to give Los Angeles a 75-73 lead. Houston followed with a 9-0 run to close the period, a spurt capped by a Joe Johnson trey with 2.1 seconds left, nearly negating the Lakers' 11-0 run open the period.
Following a 1-for-9 start, the Rockets managed four 3-pointers and a seven-point lead by the close of the first quarter. The second more closely reflected their shooting prowess, with the Rockets drilling 6-of-14 3-point attempts in the period and extending to a 54-43 lead following a 20-8 run.
Harden posted 19 points and five assists by intermission and Houston scored nine points off nine Lakers turnovers. The first half did come at a significant cost for the Rockets, however, as forward Luc Mbah a Moute sustained a dislocated right shoulder in the second quarter.
Mbah a Moute missed 15 games earlier this season with the same injury, and his versatility is a significant reason behind the Rockets' dramatic improvement on defense.
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