Rockets, locked into the top seed in West, keep steamrolling toward playoffs with win over Lakers
Houston guard Chris Paul leads all scorers with 22 points. AP

LOS ANGELES — Chris Paul scored 22 points, James Harden had 21 points and 10 assists, and the Houston Rockets kept steamrolling toward the playoffs with their 31st victory in 34 games, 105-99, over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night (Wednesday, Manila time).

Gerald Green scored 16 points as Houston hung on late to avoid its first back-to-back losses since Jan. 6. But in the first half, the Rockets lost backup forward Luc Mbah a Moute to a dislocated right shoulder in a meaningless game.

Andre Ingram scored 19 points with four 3-pointers for the Lakers in the 32-year-old guard's impressive NBA debut. Los Angeles promoted the 10-year G League veteran from its South Bay affiliate for the final two games of the regular season, and the developmental league's career leader in 3-pointers hit a triple on his first NBA shot.

Ingram's fourth 3-pointer with 51 seconds left trimmed Houston's lead to 102-99, but the Lakers couldn't score again. Ingram finished 6 for 8 from the field and 4 for 5 on 3-pointers along with three rebounds, three blocked shots and a steal.

The Rockets are locked into the top seed in the Western Conference, but coach Mike D'Antoni still kept his regular starters and rotation. Houston then took a potentially important hit when Mbah a Moute dislocated his shoulder for the second time this season while dunking in the second quarter.

Mbah a Moute averages 7.6 points and 3.1 rebounds while playing nearly 26 minutes per game as a key rotation player.

Rookie Josh Hart scored 20 points for the Lakers, who played without injured Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma in the penultimate game of their franchise-record fifth consecutive losing season.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Ryan Anderson missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle. ... Mbah a Moute missed 15 games in December and January with the same dislocated shoulder. He re-injured the joint without contact, heading immediately to the locker room.

Lakers: Ball missed his seventh straight game with a bruised left knee, while Ingram has played just two games since March 1 due to a groin strain and an apparent concussion. Ball, Ingram and Kuzma — who has a sprained left ankle — are unlikely to play in the club's season final on Wednesday night, coach Luke Walton said. If that's the case, Ball will finish his rookie season averaging 10.2 points, 7.2 assists and 6.9 rebounds per game, while Kuzma will finish his promising rookie campaign with 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

LONG TIME COMING

Ingram made his NBA debut for the Lakers after 384 games over a full decade in the developmental G League, including parts of the past six years with the Lakers' affiliate. The former American University physics major has hit 713 3-pointers in the G League with 46-percent accuracy, but his slight stature kept him out of the NBA until this late call-up. Ingram played briefly in Australia, but mostly declined chances to play overseas because he was determined to earn an NBA shot through the minors. He once tutored teammates in math to make extra cash in the offseason. Ingram averaged only 9.1 points this season for the South Bay Lakers, but hit 47.5 percent of his 3-pointers.

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UP NEXT

Rockets: At the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

Lakers: A "road" season finale against the Clippers on Wednesday.

 

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