The rubber match: The final of three regular season matchups between the Rockets (22-27) and Lakers (33-15), currently tied up at one game a piece with the home team holding serve. The Lakers have lost 2 straight and are with out the services of Andrew Bynum, who is out with a right knee bruise. Defense is going to be key in the home winning trend against the Rockets. They average 105.1 ppg (4th in NBA), use a run and shoot type offense that keeps the pace of the game frenetic, and are one of the league leaders in 3-point attempts averaging just over 21 a game. Coach Jackson was asked “What bothers you most about their (Lakers) play most right now?” he replied “their overall inconsistency.”

The Kevin Martin Kobe Bryant matchup is interesting on so many levels. Their style of play parallel each other, pure scorers who possess great range; both take aggressive shots and are given the green light to shoot. Martin has an unorthodox shot; the mechanics are not characteristic of a sharp shooter. Fortunately this doesn’t hamper his ability to get to the free throw line as he is the league leader in free throws made and averages over 8.5 attempts per. Martin’s ability getting to the basket is similar to Kobe’s, with out the hesitation dribble. They average similar numbers 23-25 ppg, 4-5 rpg, 7-10 fta, and around the same amount of minutes 31-33 mpg. They even make it look easy to get to the basket. The difference in Bryant’s game is his level of competitiveness, intensity, and will. No one has matched that in years, he keeps the mental pressure on, demanding the most out of his teammates, himself and his opponent. Kobe smells fear.

Bryant looked to get involved early as he penetrated and kicked for open looks putting teammates in great positions to score or create a positive play. He anticipated cuts, dished on some great finishes, and at the end of the first had 7 assists joining rare company. One of seven players to score 25k points 5k assists, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Karl Malone, Magic Johnson, John Havlicek, Oscar Robinson, and Jerry West the others. Bryant became the youngest player in league history to reach 27k points on Sunday versus Boston scoring 41 in the loss.

It took overtime to beat the Rockets, they connected on 10 of the 38 three point attempts which helped keep pace with the Lakers. Lamar Odom finished with 20 pts 20 rebs, and Pau Gasol 26 pts 16 rebs. Huge numbers in the absence of Andrew Bynum, Kobe edged out Martin by 2 points scoring a game high 32, dished out 11 assists, joining Magic and West as the only Lakers with 5k assists. The Lakers needed this win and look to stay on track as they host San Antonio Thursday, their last of a rough four game home stand. The Spurs are off to a franchise best (40-8) record, both Lakers and Spurs average 104ppg, should be a high scoring affair. The Lakers currently have the 5th best record in the league.