By Val Macanas
No Kobe, no problem, as Steve Blake a.k.a. the Blake Mamba shocks the Houston Rockets with a booming 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left in regulation to give his team the victory against a more complete Houston Rockets squad, 99-98, Thursday Night at the Toyota Center.
The Lakers came out strong in the 1st quarter as they put on a dazzling shooting display from beyond the arc. Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, and Wesley Johnson shot well from the 3-point area to fend-off the Rockets in the early parts of the game.
The Lakers led by as much as 14 points at the end of the 2nd quarter.
In the 3rd period, the Rockets made a big run, outscoring the Lakers by as much as 10 points to make the game a seesaw battle. The trend continued up to the 4th quarter en route to a down-the-wire finish.
The Lakers implemented the hack-a-Howard strategy and it paid off. Howard missed a total of 11 freethrows that enabled the Lakers to be within 2 points, 96-98 with less than 7 seconds left in the 4th quarter.
Coach Mike D'antoni designed a play in the perimeter. A simple down-screen play that freed up Steve Blake for a straight line three point shot. A game-winner that catapulted him to the "Blake Mamba Status."
Prior to that big 3-pointer of Blake, the Lakers were down by 6 points, 97-91, with less than 4 minutes left in the pay-off period. The Lakers then started to foul Howard. The ploy paid dividends as it got them to within 2 points with a few seconds left on the game clock.
Blake then took over and hit that three to earn for his team the victory.
Rockets' skipper James Harden did everything within his power to help his team win, but he fell short. He finished the game with 35 points, 5 assists and 9 rebounds. Howard on the other hand added 15 points, 14 rebounds and 11 missed freethrows.
The Lakers meanwhile had a well balanced scoring as Steve Blake registered 14 points on 4/6 shooting from beyond the arc, Steve Nash had 12 ,Wesley Johnson had 16, Jodie Meeks notched 18, Nick Young pitched in 11, and Jordan Farmar tallied 11 points.
Watch Steve Blake's game winning 3-point shot over the outstretched arms of Dwight Howard: