The Houston Rockets knew they’d have to go through the city of Los Angeles to have a chance to win a title and now have a chance to shock everyone.
The Houston Rockets just closed out their series with the Oklahoma City Thunder in dramatic fashion, despite being without Russell Westbrook for the majority of the series. The team undoubtedly benefited from the NBA’s walkout, as it allowed Westbrook additional time to recover from his quadriceps injury to make an impact on the back half of the first-round series.
The next opponent for James Harden and the crew will be the Los Angeles Lakers, who just dismantled the Portland Trail Blazers in five games. Although the Lakers held the first seed in the Western Conference this season, the Rockets should be salivating at the thought of a matchup against the Lakers.
Although it may sound strange, the Rockets should be happy that they were able to avoid facing a blazing hot Damian Lillard and a great eighth seed Blazers. Yes, you read that right, James Harden and the Rockets should be happy about meeting LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the conference semifinals, and here’s why.
1. Lack of guard play for Lakers
The Lakers are currently frontcourt heavy and lack a reliable group in the backcourt. Yes, LeBron is technically considered the point guard for the Lakers, but one can’t expect the 36-year-old superstar to play all 48 minutes on a full motor.
This is where the Rockets can take advantage. Alex Caruso is the first guard off the bench, and quite frankly, Caruso shouldn’t be the best option when facing James Harden and the small ball Rockets.
Caruso is a decent defensive point guard, but the Rockets have so many weapons on the perimeter that it will be a challenging task. Avery Bradley opting out of the continued season will be a crucial factor in the second-round series, since he’s the Lakers’ best perimeter defender.
Bradley most likely would’ve been assigned to James Harden, but since he opted out, the Lakers might be in trouble. Also, there is still no word on the return of Rajon Rondo, as he is still out due to a hand injury and just recently, back spasms.
Danny Green has had a miserable stint in the bubble, both in the seeding games and in the first round of the playoffs. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also hasn’t shown that he can be a reliable, consistent wing thus far.
Late season pickups Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith are capable players when it pertains to the offensive end due to their ability to create their own shots, as opposed to having to rely on LeBron to get them shots. The Lakers can undoubtedly benefit from their ability to set themselves up for looks.
But, they are barely getting rotation minutes due to the typical playoff rotation being limited and their lack of defensive presence, which is going to be needed when facing the Rockets. James Harden, Austin Rivers, Eric Gordon, and now Danuel House, as of late, have all proven their ability to create their own shot, which will be tough for the Lakers to match up with.
Next: The return of Russell Westbrook