Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Dwight Howard was late recovering defensively and Steve Blake made him pay.
It was that kind of night for the former Los Angeles Laker.
Blake's go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left lifted the Lakers to a 99-98 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Howard faced the Lakers for the first time since he left the team through free agency this past summer. Howard battled through injuries a year ago with Los Angeles and never seemed to get on the same page with Kobe Bryant during a disappointing 45-37 campaign. The Lakers fell to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round after Bryant tore his Achilles on April 12.
He had 15 points and 14 rebounds, but was just 5-of-16 from the foul line, including two key misses with 53.8 seconds left and the Rockets up 98-96.
Howard was 1-of-6 from the stripe in the final 2:18.
Howard blocked Wes Johnson's layup at the other end before Harden's right elbow jumper was off the mark. Pau Gasol corralled the rebound and called timeout with 10.9 seconds left.
Johnson had to track down a loose ball along the right sideline after Jodie Meeks threw away the inbounds pass and LA retained possession with 3.9 ticks on the clock.
Coming off a double screen from the high post, Blake had a wide open look from the left wing and swished it over the outstretched arms of Howard.
"Guys just kind of messed up on the play," Howard said. "It happens, we just have to come back next game and make sure we have a better start. We got back into the game but we didn't finish them off. There are a lot of things we need to work on."
Patrick Beverley's desperation 3-pointer from the right wing was off the mark at the horn.
Meeks had 18 points off the bench, Johnson added 16 off the pine and Blake finished with 14 for the Lakers, who had dropped three of their last four tilts coming in.
Harden registered 35 points, nine rebounds and five assists for Houston, which fell to 4-2 on the young year.
The Lakers raced out to a 36-19 advantage after a quarter of play and led by as many as 19 in the second before taking a 64-50 cushion into the locker room.
LA took an 81-77 spread into the fourth, where Houston took its first lead since it was 4-3 in the early stages of the opening frame when Chandler Parsons drove in for a dunk for a 93-91 Rockets margin with 3:52 remaining.
"It was obviously a great win and a lot of fun for us," Lakers guard Steve Nash said. "We've been struggling a little bit, trying to keep our head above water and it was a huge win. It was a great win for us in terms of the belief and some reward for all the hard work and sticking together."
Los Angeles turned the ball over 24 times ... Gasol had just two points on 1- of-10 shooting from the floor, but tallied 12 rebounds ... Parsons had 16 points.