Steve Blake's three-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining lifted the Los Angeles Lakers to a 99-98 NBA victory over Houston and former Laker Dwight Howard.

Howard, who never seemed to settle in with the Lakers last season and inked a four-year, $88 million deal with the Rockets in July, had 15 points and 14 rebounds.

But he made just 5-of-16 from the free throw line, including two crucial misses with 53.8 seconds left and the Rockets leading 98-96.

"The free throws were terrible," Howard said. "I've got to keep working ... I've just got to get back in the gym and keep working -- they're going to fall."

Howard said the defeat -- after Houston had battled back to take the lead after trailing by as many as 19 points -- was hard to swallow, regardless of the opponent.

"Nobody likes to lose," he said. "So it's very upsetting that we lost the way we did."

James Harden led the Rockets with 35 points. But when he missed a jump shot with 12 seconds left, Los Angeles' Pau Gasol grabbed the rebound and called a timeout with 10.9 seconds to play.

The Lakers' Jodie Meeks then threw away an inbound pass, but Wes Johnson tracked down the loose ball to keep it in the Lakers' hands with less than four seconds to play -- setting the stage for Blake.

Coming off a double screen, Blake got a wide open look from the left and lofted a shot over Howard's outstretched arms.

Los Angeles, playing without superstar Kobe Bryant as he continues his recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon, notched their first road win of the young NBA season.

"It was huge," Blake said. "Mainly because we were struggling our last two road games, we got blown out.

"For us to come back here and still have heart and play the way we did tonight -- I think says a lot about the character of our team."

 

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