Even Kobe Bryant was impressed by Goran Dragic on Wednesday night, giving the Houston point guard a quick hug at midcourt after the Rockets rallied to beat the Lakers.
Dragic hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 28 seconds left and finished with 16 points and 13 assists in the Rockets' 107-104 comeback victory.
Down by nine with 5 minutes left, the Rockets had a 12-0 run to take the lead.
Luis Scola and Courtney Lee scored 23 points apiece for the Rockets. Bryant had 29 points, and Pau Gasol added 21 for the Lakers.
The Rockets snapped a two-game losing streak, while the Lakers have lost two in a row.
Bryant, coming off a 3-for-20 shooting night Sunday, went 10 for 27 with two 3-pointers against Houston. The Lakers had 15 turnovers and were outrebounded 40-31.
The Lakers missed five straight shots during the Rockets' late spurt before Bryant sank a fadeaway with 1:28 remaining to cut it to 100-99. Patrick Patterson split two free throws before Bryant tied it with a long jumper over 6-foot-9 rookie Chandler Parsons, who guarded him most of the night.
Dragic answered by swishing a 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Lakers' bench. Bryant then missed a straight-on 3-pointer off the back of the rim, Parsons rebounded and Lee's free throws with 10.6 seconds left put the game out of reach.
Gasol and Andrew Bynum made 10 of 14 shots in the first quarter and the Lakers built a 40-25 lead.
Bryant started 3 for 5 on Wednesday. He drove into the lane late in the quarter, wrapped the ball around his back and hit a left-handed shot in the lane, part of a 20-7 Lakers' spurt.
The Rockets played stingier defense in the second quarter, and the Lakers' shooting cooled off, going 6-for-18 from the field. Houston finished the half with a 12-6 spurt to trail only 56-51 at the break.
Bynum was ejected late in the third quarter after picking up his second technical foul for mouthing off to referee Monty McCutchen.
With Bryant on the bench, the Lakers opened the final quarter with a 6-0 run to stretch the lead to 85-73. Bryant returned with 5:01 left and the Lakers leading 97-88.
Notes: The Lakers' 40-point first quarter was a season high. ... Rockets G Kevin Martin (strained right shoulder) sat out for the fifth straight game, and Houston coach Kevin McHale did not know when the team's leading scorer might be ready to return. ... Yao Ming had a courtside seat, the first Rockets' game he's watched since retiring from basketball last summer. The 7-foot-6 center's career was cut short by injuries, mostly to his left foot. He says he's healthy now, "good enough for walking, but not good enough for playing basketball." Yao seemed content on Wednesday night and had no regrets that he and Tracy McGrady could never deliver a championship. "We had this chance before, and we missed it," Yao said. "There's no 'if.' We just need to face ourselves, and say we did our best and walk away." Former Rocket and Laker Robert Horry watched the game with Yao.