Rapid Reaction: Rockets 125, Lakers 112

HOUSTON -- For a little while there it seemed as though the Los Angeles Lakers might be able to pull it out with a less-is-more type outcome on Tuesday against the Houston Rockets.

Then reality set in.

Quite simply, there's a reason the Lakers came into the game having lost four out of their previous five games, just as there was a reason the Rockets came in riding a four-game winning streak.

And there's a reason why it's now five out of six for L.A. and five in a row on the plus side for Houston.

How it happened: Rather than being the team clawing back from an early deficit, it was the Lakers who built a 14-point lead in the first quarter.

The Rockets were able to make it a close game by halftime and erased all the early work the Lakers put in with an 18-2 run of their own in the third quarter to break the game open.

L.A. never made it close in the fourth and coach Mike D'Antoni conceded victory with 1:43 remaining, subbing Kobe Bryant (20 points on 8-for-22 shooting, 7 assists, 5 rebounds) and Steve Nash (16 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds) out of the game.

What it means: The Lakers still don't have any answers for their porous defense and they'll have to continue to search for solutions with Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill out of the lineup.

Hits: A day after playing a D-League game that tipped off a 10 a.m. in Reno, Nev., Robert Sacre was the starting center for the Lakers. Sacre was serviceable, finishing with 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting along with three rebounds, but he struggled giving up and-1 opportunities to Rockets players down low.

Metta World Peace scored a season-high 24 points and shot 4-for-5 on 3-pointers.

Misses: Antawn Jamison and D'Antoni got into a verbal spat in the first half when the veteran forward was checking into the game. Jamison finished with seven points and two rebounds and shot just 1-for-4 on 3-pointers in 24 minutes.

Stat of the night: With his fifth assist of the night, a dish inside to Jamison for a layup just before the half, Nash became only the fifth player in NBA history to amass 10,000 career assists.

Notes: Dwight Howard discussed the torn labrum in his right shoulder with reporters before the game and downplayed the severity of the injury.

What's next: With the Lakers now 0-3 on their crucial five-game stretch against Western Conference opponents ahead of them in the standings, they travel to San Antonio for the second night of a back-to-back Wednesday. Nothing gets easier for the 15-19 Lakers.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.