The Houston Rockets, fueled by 41 points from Russell Westbrook, surged late to shock the NBA’s Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers 121-111 on Thursday.
Anthony Davis shook off a sprained right index finger to lead the Lakers with 32 points.
LeBron James added 18 for Los Angeles, who trailed much of the night but took a 108-105 lead on Avery Bradley’s pull up jumper with 4:57 remaining.
But the Rockets closed the game with a 16-3 scoring run to seal their fourth straight victory.
Their small-ball lineup – featuring no one taller than 6-foot-6 (2m) – proved more than a match for Los Angeles.
Sharp-shooting forward Robert Covington, acquired by the Rockets from the Timberwolves this week, drained two three-pointers and produced a key block as Houstonpowered to the finish.
Eric Gordon added 15 points for the Rockets, James Harden had a relatively quiet night with 14 points and Covington added 14. Six Houston players scored in double figures.
“They hit some tough shots down the stretch,” said Davis, who added 13 rebounds for the Lakers. “We made some costly turnovers, we didn’t complete passes that we normally complete and it hurt us when they got out in transition and we didn’t match up well – they were able to make us pay.”
James added 18 points, 15 assists and nine rebounds and Danny Green and Bradley scored 15 apiece for Los Angeles, whose Western Conference lead over the LA Clippers is now just 2 1/2 games.
In Milwaukee, reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered a dominant 36-point, 20-rebound performance as the Bucks avenged a Christmas Day loss to the Philadelphia 76ers with a 112-101 victory.
Antetokounmpo, who also handed out six assists, had 19 points and 10 rebounds before halftime as the league-leading Bucks powered to their 12th victory in 13 games.
The “Greek Freak” notched his fifth straight game of at least 30 points and 15 rebounds – the first NBA player since the 1985-86 season to put together such a streak.
“It’s crazy,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m happy that we’re winning and we’re playing good.
“But I can get a lot better. I can be smarter. I can be sharper. I can make better passes on time, make three-point shots and two-point shots. That’s the mindset I have.”
Khris Middleton added 20 points, and Eric Bledsoe chipped in 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Bucks, who improved to 44-7 and notched their 29th double-digit win of the season.
Tobias Harris led Philadelphia with 25 points.
Joel Embiid added 19 points and 11 rebounds but never found a good offensive rhythm – making just six of 26 shots from the field.
Ben Simmons had 11 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists, but the Sixers’ road struggles continued.
With a 31-21 overall record, the 76ers are just 9-19 away from home.
Pelicans beat Bulls
New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson had another impressive outing in his injury-delayed debut season, connecting on nine of 11 shots from the field on the way to 21 points in the Pelicans’ 125-119 victory over the Bulls in Chicago.
Williamson was a force in the paint against a Bulls team missing their two two defenders in Wendell Carter and Kris Dunn.
The Pelicans shot 56.3 percent from the field and led 103-81 heading into the fourth quarter and their biggest concern of the night was a right ankle injury to Brandon Ingram, who scored 15 points in 21 minutes but departed the game midway through the third period.
The Knicks won a nail-biter in New York, where RJ Barrett returned from a nine-game injury absence to score 12 points in a 105-103 victory over the Orlando Magic.
The Knicks led by as many as 13 in the first half but trailed by as many as 10 in the fourth quarter.
Julius Randle, who led the Knicks with 22 points, put New York ahead for good with 4:59 remaining with a jump shot that made it 98-96.
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