Houston Rockets: Previewing the Finale Showdown Vs. the Lakers

By Michael Ma

November 18, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) and Houston Rockets power forward Terrence Jones (6) go for a rebound during the game at the Staples Center. Lakers won 119-108. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After 81 games, it has come down to just one game that could possibly determine the fate of the Houston Rockets in the playoffs.  At the end of Wednesday night, the Rockets can finish as high as the 3rd seed, or as low as the 8th seed.  The scenarios are:

A win Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, and a loss by the Golden State Warriors would mean the Rockets finish with the 6th seed and most likely play the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

A win by both the Rockets and Warriors would give Houston the 7th seed, which would set up a first round match up against the San Antonio Spurs.

A Rockets loss and a Utah Jazz loss against the Memphis Grizzlies would give Houston the 8th seed, and play the Oklahoma City Thunder.

A Rockets loss and a Jazz win would give the Rockets the 7th seed.

All scenarios aside, the Rockets are focusing on finishing the season out strong and heading into the playoffs with some momentum.  The Rockets fell Monday night to the Phoenix Suns, who have the worst record in the west, 119-112.

 James Harden is looking for a strong bounce back game, after scoring just 16 points against the Suns, while going 5 for 18 shooting.  In the most recent match up against the Lakers on January 8th, Harden led the Rockets to victory with 31 points.

The Lakers will be without Kobe Bryant, after tearing his Achilles last week, and Steve Nash.  Even if the Lakers make the playoffs, Bryant may not be available as he is scheduled to miss at least six weeks.  The Lakers have also been without Metta World Peace, who has been sidelined with a knee injury.

With the starting back-court gone, the Lakers will be looking to exploit the Rockets defense in the low post.  Dwight Howard is coming off a 26 points 17 rebounds performance against the San Antonio Spurs, while Pau Gasol is 23.7 points in the last three games.