Lakers take down Rockets in overtime

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Kobe Bryant helped the limping Lakers to a 114-106 win over the Houston Rockets in overtime on Tuesday as the defending champions ground out the win despite another sub-par performance.

Bryant scored 32 points and dished out 11 assists as the Lakers avoided a third consecutive defeat. Pau Gasol added 26 points and 16 rebounds while Lamar Odom recorded 20 and 20 rebounds in place of injured center Andrew Bynum.

It was another less-than-impressive performance from the Lakers, who were beaten 109-96 by Boston on Sunday.

"It's important in this business to be able to play down the stretch and win close games," Lakers coach Phil Jackson told reporters.

"We had a six-point ball game (against Boston) on Sunday with four minutes to go, and we didn't play down the stretch, which is what you have to do."

Kevin Martin had a team-high 30 points for the Rockets (22-28), who forced overtime on a set play that saw Luis Scola score an easy layup with five seconds left in regulation.

Scola finished with 24 and 15 rebounds but Los Angeles (34-15) scored the final eight points of overtime to seal victory and send Houston to their third loss in a row.

Los Angeles entered the game having lost three of their last five and are struggling with consistency.

Bynum was scratched from the lineup due to a bone bruise in his left knee, moving Odom into the starting lineup. The 7-footer has had frequent knee issues and missed the first 24 games of the season after surgery.

Bryant had scored 41 points in the Lakers' recent loss to Boston but failed to tally an assist. Against the Rockets he had seven assists in the first quarter alone as Los Angeles avenged a defeat to Houston in their last meeting on December 1.

"It's a tough team for us to play for some reason," said Bryant of the Rockets. "They play extremely well, and they move well without the ball. We made an adjustment in OT in terms of how we executed, and it paid off."

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)