1. Reliance On Hero Ball Hurts Lakers Late

By Rahat Huq
TrueHoop Network

HOUSTON -- On four straight possessions, Ramon Sessions showed why the Los Angeles Lakers brought the point guard in at the trade deadline to essentially replace former captain Derek Fisher.

A driving bank-shot, a pass that put Pau Gasol on the free throw line, a made jumper and, finally, a spoon-fed layup for Gasol. In a flash, Sessions had helped put the Lakers up by 12 with 6:41 remaining in the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets. The newest member of the purple and gold was doing whatever he wanted via the high screen-and-roll and was about to lead his team to a runaway victory.

But from that point on, the ball would rarely be in Sessions' hands.

With the Rockets trailing by just four, Kobe Bryant checked in at the 4:23 mark and proceeded to miss a 3-pointer, a jumper and a fadeaway, and had the ball stolen away from him over the course of the next two minutes, during which Houston took the lead for good. While Kobe did recover to hit three awe-inspiring jumpers to close the game, the damage had already been done. Houston sealed a 107-104 victory at the Toyota Center. The decision to abandon Sessions, who finished with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting, was baffling.

Bryant dazzled the locals with an assortment of moves early on, going behind his back on one occasion to set up a left-handed jump hook. When he spun baseline to split two Rockets, the crowd got a taste of the greatness they so desperately craved. It was a reminder of why people come to watch.

His play at the end of the game, however, showed why allowing Kobe to be Kobe might not always be the best game plan.

Rookie Chandler Parsons, who stopped Kevin Durant earlier this season, played great defense on Bryant to fuel the win. Even Bryant, who finished with 29 points on 10-for-27 shooting, took notice. Begrudgingly.

"Oh, come on," Bryant said when asked about Parsons' defense.

"I love him though, I do. I think he's a terrific young player," Bryant continued. "I think he has a really bright future and I don't say that a lot about a lot of people."

Parsons was the hero, but had the Lakers just stayed with what had been working, that probably wouldn't have been the case.

Rahat Huq covers the Rockets for Red94, part of the TrueHoop Network. Follow him on Twitter, @RedNinetyFour

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