The Los Angeles Lakers ended a five-game drought against the Houston Rockets, winning in a high-scoring affair, 132-123.
Both teams stuck to eight-man rotations because of key players being ruled out due to health and safety protocols, but the Rockets welcomed to the court Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. after the two missed time due to injuries.
The game stayed close all the way until the final minute when the Lakers finally pulled away. LeBron James and Russell Westbrook developed a solid two-man game that led to James converting on a dunk and layup in back-to-back possessions.
Four Lakers scored at least 24 points. LeBron led with 32. Malik Monk, who got the start, dropped 25. Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony each scored 24.
Here is how the Lakers, now 17-18 on the season, graded individually from the win:
Russell Westbrook: A-minus
Russell Westbrook had a strong bounce-back game after a forgettable performance on Christmas. The former MVP responded with a more efficient 24-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist triple-double on 10-of-17 shooting (2-of-2 3P) while adding two steals.
The two drawbacks for Westbrook were his seven turnovers and a 2-of-6 clip from the charity stripe.
This is the type of performance the Lakers needed from him. He took smart 3-pointers and swished both, and he didn’t force layups near the rim. He played with poise and patience for most of the night, and those traits manifested on the box score.
Malik Monk: A
Malik Monk was superb in his second game back from health and safety protocol. The 23-year-old guard dropped 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting overall and 3-of-7 from deep to go with two rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal, all while registering zero turnovers. He also made all eight attempts from the free-throw line.
The Lakers have alternated between starting guards and wings all season long for various reasons, but Monk proved he’s worth getting more looks in the starting group, which he brought to attention during the preseason, too.
Avery Bradley: B-minus
Avery Bradley had his flaws on his return from health and safety protocol. He struggled to hit some shots inside the arc and could’ve been better on the point-of-attack side defensively. But his on-ball presence was severely missed during the team’s losing streak. Bradley hit 2-of-5 shots from deep to finish with 14 points and two steals.
Stanley Johnson: B-minus
Stanley Johnson thrived when focusing on his strengths: jumping passing lanes, boxing out, chest-to-chest defense. His grade plummets because he missed all four of his 3-pointers, which hasn’t been a strength for him throughout his career. Still, the 25-year-old forward had another performance that showed he belongs on this team.
LeBron James: A
LeBron now has five straight 30-point outings. The King delivered a strong 32-point, 11-rebound and 11-assist triple-double to go with two blocks and a steal on 11-of-19 shooting overall, 3-of-5 from deep and 7-of-9 from the free-throw line, all while starting at center. What James is doing right now is simply incredible, and finally one of his Herculean efforts results in a win.
Carmelo Anthony: A
Carmelo Anthony had a sensational game off the bench. He struggled when guarding Christian Wood or Alperen Sengun down low, which is understandable. But he still finished with a game-high plus-17 because of his 24 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and one steal. He shot 4-of-8 from deep in a big night off the bench. He accounted for 24 of the team’s 28 bench points.
Talen Horton-Tucker: D
Not a promising game for Talen Horton-Tucker. He was dropped from the starting lineup and played 21 minutes off the bench. He did not impress. He finished with two points on 1-of-4 shooting, missing both of his 3s and his only free-throw attempt. He also fouled five times, so he got the lowest grade of any Laker tonight.
Darren Collison: N/A
Darren Collison was the last reserve to get minutes. He played 14 minutes and scored his first points since retiring, which came on a baseline drive from the left corner where he sealed the defender on the attack and finished inside. He added two rebounds and an assist, but there wasn’t too much available to properly judge his performance.