Kyle Kuzma’s driving layup with 6.9 seconds remaining gave the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers a 124-122 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night and kept the defending NBA champions’ slim hopes of avoiding the play-in tournament alive.
The Lakers led 121-113 with 2:57 remaining, but the Rockets scored nine straight points to go up by a point in the final minute. After a timeout, Kuzma was able to drive the lane and score the go-ahead points.
Houston had a final chance, but Kelly Olynyk had the ball stolen by Ben McLemore with 0.9 seconds remaining. Talen Horton-Tucker then hit the first free throw, but missed the second.
Horton-Tucker scored 23 points, and Andre Drummond added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who were without LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso. James was ruled out for the sixth straight game due to a high right ankle sprain, while Davis (groin) and Caruso (foot) aggravated injuries during an overtime win over the Knicks on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles had seven players in double figures as it extended its winning streak to three for the first time since the middle of March.
Horton-Tucker, who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime of Tuesday night’s win over the New York Knicks, got his fourth start of the season. He also had 10 assists for his fourth double-double of the season while logging a season-high 37 minutes.
Drummond recorded a double-double for the second straight game and was 9 of 13 from the field. Kuzma scored 19 points and Montrezl Harrell added 16.
The Lakers (40-30) are in seventh place in the Western Conference with two games remaining. They are one game behind Portland and Dallas in the battle for a top six spot, which would allow them to avoid being in next week’s play-in tournament. However, the Trail Blazers and Mavericks won the season series over the Lakers and hold the tiebreakers.
Olynyk and Armoni Brooks scored 24 apiece for the Rockets (16-54) and Kenyon Martin Jr. added 20. Houston has dropped seven straight and 44 of its last 49.
Rockets: Danuel House Jr. and DaQuan Jeffries were unavailable after suffering ankle injuries Monday.
Lakers: Los Angeles unveiled the banner for its 17th NBA championship before the game. They held off from doing it until fans were finally allowed to attend games at Staples Center.
Rockets: Host the LA Clippers on Friday.
Lakers: Travel to Indiana on Saturday.