Cov­ing­ton has clutch de­but in Rock­ets’ win in L.A.

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By GREG BEACHAM

LOS AN­GE­LES — Rus­sell West­brook scored 41 points and Robert Cov­ing­ton hit two clutch late 3-point­ers while get­ting 14 points and eight re­bounds in his aus­pi­cious Rock­ets de­but, lead­ing Hous­ton to a 121-111 over the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers on Thurs­day night.

James Har­den man­aged just 14 points while the Rock­ets un­veiled the lat­est ver­sion of their com­mit­ment to small ball by not play­ing any­body taller than 6-foot-7 against the hulk­ing Lak­ers.

An­thony Davis and the Lak­ers cap­i­tal­ized in­side, but Hous­ton still ral­lied from a late four-point deficit and

ended the game on a 19-5 surge high­lighted by two of Cov­ing­ton’s four 3-point­ers. The vet­eran shooter was ac­quired from Min­nesota on Wed­nes­day in a four-team trade.

Davis had 32 points and 13 re­bounds, and LeBron James had 18 points, 15 as­sists and nine re­bounds in a meet­ing of first-place teams with sharply con­trast­ing ap­proaches.

Har­den took just 10 shots in his fol­low-up to back-to­back 40-point games, but West­brook re­turned from a one-game ab­sence with a sprained thumb and had a huge per­for­mance in the Rock­ets’ fourth straight win.

Hous­ton gave up big man Clint Capela to ac­quire Cov­ing­ton, leav­ing the club with an un­com­monly small ros­ter even by the Rock­ets’ stan­dards. They still have 7-foot­ers Tyson Chan­dler and Isa­iah Harten­stein on the ros­ter, but nei­ther got play­ing time at Sta­ples Cen­ter.

Danuel House Jr., who is listed at 6-foot-6, was the tallest player in the Rock­ets’ start­ing lineup. Har­den stepped into the cen­ter cir­cle to lose the open­ing tip, while 6-foot-5 P.J. Tucker oc­cu­pied the nom­i­nal cen­ter spot and at­tempted to guard the Lak­ers’ big men, but im­me­di­ately got into foul trou­ble.

Although Davis, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee had a rel­a­tively easy time get­ting shots down low and grab­bing re­bounds in traf­fic, the Rock­ets’ small lineup cre­ated the of­fen­sive spac­ing and ball move­ment de­sired above all else by coach Mike D’An­toni. The Lak­ers adapted their own line­ups, with Howard and McGee play­ing only a com­bined 20 min­utes.

The Lak­ers got plenty of sim­ple bas­kets down low, but the Rock­ets went 15 for 29 on 3-point­ers in the first three quar­ters to keep it close.

Cov­ing­ton came up with a key block of Davis’ shot with about 3:30 to play af­ter Hous­ton re­claimed the lead, and he hit a clutch 3-pointer from the cor­ner with 2:42 to play.

The Lak­ers stood pat at the trade dead­line, pre­fer­ring to stick with the ros­ter that has spent nearly five months build­ing the chem­istry nec­es­sary to post the West­ern Con­fer­ence’s best record.

They might not be done adding to the ros­ter, how­ever: Dar­ren Col­li­son watched the game next to Lak­ers owner Jeanie Buss in the sec­ond half. The Ran­cho Cu­ca­monga na­tive and UCLA prod­uct is re­port­edly weigh­ing an NBA re­turn af­ter re­tir­ing from his 10-year ca­reer in June.

The Lak­ers beat the Rock­ets 124-115 in Hous­ton last month with­out an in­jured Davis.

TIP-INS

Lak­ers: Davis went to the locker room shortly be­fore half­time. He sprained his right in­dex fin­ger, but re­turned to start the sec­ond half with a wrap on his hand. ... LA didn’t make a trade near the dead­line for the first time since 2016 . ... James got fans on their feet with a dou­ble-pump, two-handed re­verse dunk when he got out alone on a break in the third quar­ter.

KEVIN REECE/Spe­cial to VP

SIZE MAT­TERS — Lak­ers’ for­ward An­thony Davis posts up against a Hous­ton de­fender dur­ing a game on Thurs­day at the Sta­ples Cen­ter.

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