High-flying Lakers shoot down Rockets

Mike D'Antoni's coaching debut was put on hold but the Los Angeles Lakers won anyway, beating the Houston Rockets 119-108 behind a triple double performance from superstar Kobe Bryant.

D'Antoni was hoping to make his Lakers head coaching debut Sunday night, but decided hours before the game that he was not quite ready to return. He is recovering from knee replacement surgery earlier this month and is still on crutches.

Bryant finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists and Dwight Howard had 28 points and 13 rebounds in the victory for Los Angeles, which recorded a season-high point total.

"We shot the ball fairly well," Bryant said. "We seemed to make the right decisions.

"We got to keep playing with a lot of energy, execute well and read the defences well."

D'Antoni conducted the Lakers' practice for the first time Thursday, but wasn't on the bench for their 114-102 win against Phoenix on Friday or Sunday.

He is now planning on being ready to coach his first game Tuesday at home against Brooklyn.

"I am hoping but it is day-to-day," D'Antoni said Sunday. "I am not going to compromise any kind of energy problems I might have on the bench.

"Bernie (Bickerstaff) does a great job and I have terrific faith in him so hopefully Tuesday is a go."

The Lakers have gone 4-1 under interim head coach Bickerstaff.

Los Angeles began the year 1-4, which resulted in the sacking of Mike Brown.

The Lakers then passed on a chance to bring back 11-time NBA champion Phil Jackson after they hired D'Antoni on Monday last week.

Los Angeles have also been without Canadian Steve Nash, who won a pair of NBA MVPs running D'Antoni's up-tempo offence with Phoenix. Nash missed his eighth consecutive game with a broken leg.

Chandler Parsons scored 24 points to lead the Rockets, who have lost six of their last eight games.

Bryant had 11 points in the first quarter Sunday, while Howard added 10 as the Lakers started quickly and led 40-29 heading into the second.

"It's wonderful," Bickerstaff said of the victory. "We are getting good shots. We still had little problem early with our defence. But the stretch where we took off a bit we got a little more aggressive on our defence.

"It is best to do a few things well and get it down because all those things have options off it."


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