Former Houston Rockets forward Charles Barkley and all-time great Shaquille O’Neal made interesting comments about the Rockets on Inside the NBA.
The Houston Rockets are headed into Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have been outmatched in the series. With a 3-2 lead, the Rockets are on the cusp of advancing to the Semifinals, which would draw a match against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers looked sluggish in the seeding games in the bubble, en route to a 3-5 record. But for as bad as the Lakers initially looked, they still managed to pull away from the Portland Trail Blazers within five games of the opening round of the playoffs, in part to the slew of injuries the Blazers were engulfed with.
Bubble MVP Damian Lillard suffered a dislocated finger and a lateral knee sprain, CJ McCollum suffered a back injury prior to the playoffs, and Zach Collins missed the entire series with season-ending ankle surgery.
Although the Rockets are still in a battle with the Thunder, it’s difficult to not look ahead to the potential second-round matchup, which features two of the best teams in the Western Conference. Shaquille O’Neal shared his thoughts on a Rockets-Lakers matchup, while also saying that he would expect the Lakers to pull away easily, due to the Rockets’ lack of size.
O’Neal, Barkley share thoughts on potential Rockets-Lakers matchup
“I would like to see them play Houston. If they play Houston they should be able to dominate them because Houston plays small ball. I don’t want to see Anthony Davis shooting any jumpers if they play against Houston.”
It should be no surprise that the Rockets are already being viewed as underdogs before they even eliminate the Thunder, as many in the basketball world viewed the Rockets as underdogs against even OKC. But O’Neal’s claim that small ball would hurt the Rockets against the Lakers seems to disregard the data, as the Rockets beat the Lakers twice after the Clint Capela trade.
Former Houston Rockets forward Charles Barkley also sided with O’Neal in hoping for a Rockets-Lakers second-round matchup, albeit for different reasons.
“To see Russell Westbrook and James Harden against the Lakers would be very entertaining. To me, that would be the ultimate test of small ball. That would be the ultimate test. Like okay, we’re going to play with all these little dudes and we’re going to shoot a bunch of threes, y’all can’t shoot threes.
That, to me, would be a great thing to see. I love watching Russ play and [James Harden] is the best one-on-one basketball player I have ever seen. No disrespect to the great Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. I’m just telling you.”
Barkley has been one of the biggest critics of small ball and has repeatedly stated that the Rockets simply can’t win a championship with a strategy that sacrifices size. For Barkley, a victory over the Lakers would change his mind entirely, as they have three players who are all 6-foot-10 or taller in Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, and JaVale McGee.
With the Rockets still facing the Thunder, it seems pre-meditated to already crown the Lakers as the eventual champion against the Rockets. But the Rockets will gladly play the role of underdogs.