The Houston Rockets need to regain their momentum against the Los Angeles Lakers after dropping a game to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Houston Rockets look to right the course after their first defeat in the restart, when they face the Western Conference regular-season champion Los Angeles Lakers. The two present a clash of ideologies, with the Rockets bombing more threes than any other team and the Lakers hunting for post touches.
The team from Hollywood is not the only team bringing the star power, with the match-up featuring six of the seven MVP trophies at the bubble (James Harden and Russell Westbrook each have one trophy, and LeBron James has four). The Lakers, built like the champions of the past, and the Rockets, a grand new experiment, face off in a game for the soul of basketball’s future.
The Lakers kicked off the restart with a dramatic victory over their in-city rival LA Clippers. Anthony Davis was unstoppable, as he rampaged through the Clippers thin frontcourt for 34 points.
The glow of victory did not last long, as the Lakers dropped a clunker to the oft-forgotten but lethal Toronto Raptors. The Lakers and Davis quickly recovered their mojo and beat the Jazz 116-108 with The Brow dropping 40 on the league’s best defensive center Rudy Gobert.
LeBron has efficiently orchestrated the Lakers’ offense but has yet to find his scoring touch inside the bubble, averaging only 19.3 points a game since play resumed.
The Rockets had a crash landing against the Portland Trail Blazers after falling to the playoff hopefuls 110-102. The Rockets only led once and spent the entire game chasing, something they’ve come accustomed to in the bubble. In the end, neither James Harden nor Russell Westbrook were able to step up and lead the Rockets over the Blazers.
How the Houston Rockets could cruise to a victory over the Lakers
While the Rockets’ loss to the Blazers saw both of their stars have off nights, the game was still very much in play all the way to the end. With victories over the Mavericks and the Bucks, the Rockets have proven the ability to keep pace with the best of the best.
The Lakers offense, built from the post out, seems like a relic of a bygone era. They take the fourth-most shots at the rim and hit them at a league-best 72.6 percent, while running the second-most post-up plays (7.8 percent).
The Lakers exert their dominance in the paint, with the league’s fifth-best offensive rebounding rate (24.2 percent) and lead the league in dunks, with 509. A stingy defensive unit, the Lakers own the third-best defensive rating and a league-leading 448 blocked shots. The Lakers use their size to their advantage and will look to capitalize on it against the Rockets.
In total contrast of styles, the Rockets have downsized to gain an advantage over their opponents. The trade of rebounding and rim protection for spacing and turnovers has been effective for the Rockets with a 13-7 record in their first 20 games of micro-ball. One of the Rockets’ first victories in the micro-ball era was over the Lakers, when Russell Westbrook went off for 41 points.
Russ also had several ferocious dunks like this.
In the end, the game will be defined by which superstar duo rises to the occasion. The Lakers and Rockets are both hyper-reliant on their superstar duos for scoring, as James Harden and Russell Westbrook combine for 61.7 points per game, while LeBron James and Anthony Davis link up for 52.2 points per game.
This makes the game a showdown of the two highest-scoring duos in the league. Sometimes basketball is simple; the superstars win the games.
After a poor night from both Westbrook and Harden against the Trail Blazers, the Rockets should come out firing on all cylinders in an effort to move up in the Western Conference standings. The Lakers, on the other hand, have nothing left to play for in the bubble.
After clinching the number one seed with their victory over the Utah Jazz, the Lakers will use their remaining games to find a rhythm and get rested for playoffs. The Lakers are mediocre after LeBron and Anthony Davis and Thursday night’s game against the Rockets is only a day after their clash loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
LeBron and AD will likely see their minutes restricted so load management may rob viewers of a potentially great game. But it could give the Rockets an effortless path to victory over the West’s best.