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Rockets 99, Lakers 87

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LOS ANGELES — Even without center Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets rolled to an easy win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.

Guard James Harden scored 37 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists, and the Rockets recorded a 99-87 victory over the Lakers at Staples Center. Forward Josh Smith and guard Jason Terry finished with 11 points apiece, helping the Rockets (31-14) win their second straight.

Howard missed the game with a right ankle sprain, suffered in Friday’s win at Phoenix. Rockets coach Kevin McHale wasn’t sure when Howard would return.

Reserve forward Carlos Boozer scored 18 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Lakers (12-33), who lost their season-high eighth consecutive game. Guards Jeremy Lin and Wayne Ellington scored 14 and 13 points, respectively.

The Rockets took command in the opening period. They grabbed a 30-15 advantage at the end of the first quarter and never allowed their lead to dip under double figures the rest of the way.

The Rockets held a 52-36 cushion at the break. They used their 3-point shooting to build the lead. Houston connected on eight of 18 from behind the arc compared to 0-for-8 for Los Angeles. They finished hitting 13 of 44 from 3-point range to 1 of 13 for the Lakers.

The Rockets hit 48.8 percent (21 of 43) of their shots from the floor to only 36.4 percent (16 of 44) for the Lakers in the first half. Overall, they shot 43 percent (34 of 79) to 40.2 percent (35 of 87) for the Lakers.

Harden, who scored 13 points in the opening quarter, made eight of 10 attempts, including three of five on treys in the first half.

Los Angeles guard Nick Young, who did not play in the second half and managed just eight minutes overall, went scoreless for the first time in his career since Feb. 24, 2013, when he was with the Philadelphia 76ers in a game against the New York Knicks. Young missed the only two shots he took in 17 minutes of that contest.

NOTES: Lakers G Jordan Clarkson and C Tarik Black wheeled in baby strollers before the game. Coach Byron Scott ordered the pair to bring the strollers to each home game for the rest of the season as part of their rookie rituals. … Rockets coach Kevin McHale on the play of star G James Harden: “He’s just been playing at a really, really high level,” McHale said. “Most players can’t reach that level.” … Scott remains hopeful G Kobe Bryant’s right rotator cuff tear doesn’t end his season. Bryant will be re-examined Monday and decide his next course of action. … Houston hosts the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. … The Washington Wizards visit the Lakers on Tuesday.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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