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D'Antoni era begins for Lakers

The Mike D'Antoni era begins Sunday night.

The new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers will be on the sideline coaching his squad Sunday against the Houston Rockets at the Staples Center.

D'Antoni watched Friday night's victory over the Phoenix Suns from the players' lounge while getting therapy after knee surgery.

The early returns were positive. The Lakers put up 114 points in their victory over the Suns after just beginning to learn D'Antoni's new offensive system.

"Everybody kind of moves, the whole offense has to find their position," said Kobe Bryant, who scored a game-high 31 points against Phoenix. "He knows how to direct his offense and he's been directing it for a long time, and the main thing is, it's very simple."

D'Antoni will coach his first game since March of last season with the New York Knicks. Things didn't work well in the Big Apple, but D'Antoni's offense should make everyone forget departed coach Mike Brown's slower Princeton offense.

"It was good," D'Antoni said, referring to the offense on Friday, after practice on Saturday. "We're more of in a halfway stage with a lot of the concepts we're trying to get. Overall, we shot the ball well. There will be some bumps along the road, but overall pretty good."

Bryant wasn't the only big contributor on Friday. The starting frontline of Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace combined for 56 points, 28 rebounds and seven blocked shots.

Friday's win ended Bernie Bickerstaff's run as Lakers coach and he will remain with the team after going 3-1 at the helm.

"I thought it was said that it would be a footnote, and it would be something that's in history that maybe my grandkids can talk about," said Bickerstaff. "But it's all good, it's all fun and that's what life is about -- don't take yourself too seriously, enjoy, and enjoy the ride."

The Rockets head to Tinsel Town after a heartbreaking loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night. The Rockets fell, 119-117 in overtime, their second overtime loss to Portland this season.

Houston watched a 16-point lead evaporate on Friday thanks to some great play by Portland rookie Damian Lillard. Lillard scored 14 of his 27 points in the final 8:03 and Nicolas Batum had 35 to go along with 29 from LaMarcus Aldridge.

"When those guys are hitting shots like that, nobody in the world's going to stop them," said Rockets' forward Chandler Parsons.

James Harden led six Houston players in double-figures with 29 points. Parsons and Omer Asik both had double-doubles, but the Rockets fell to 2-2 under interim coach Kelvin Sampson, who is guiding the team while head coach Kevin McHale is on a leave of absence to deal with a personal matter.

Houston has lost five of its last seven. The good news for the Rockets is they have won their last two against the Lakers, but are just 4-10 in their last 14 against Los Angeles.

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