2. The Return of Russell Westbrook
James Harden’s running mate in the backcourt was able to return from Game 5 onward in the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which should strike fear in the hearts of the Lakers. He also had his best game of the playoffs in the clinching Game 7, scoring 20 points and pulling down nine boards in 34 minutes.
This means a fully healthy, rested and determined Russell Westbrook will be added to this Rockets team that is already a matchup nightmare for the Lakers. Who on the Lakers is capable of taming Westbrook?
Who can they rely on to match the grit and toughness he brings to the court every single game? Although Westbrook’s triple-double season average streak came to an end, he is still having one of his most efficient seasons to date.
Yes, he isn’t the best 3-point shooter, but the Rockets’ move to small ball was to fit his style of play, which is attacking the rim. Anthony Davis is expected to play on the perimeter due to the Rockets opening up the paint by stretching the floor. This should help Russ get his buckets in the paint, which he does with ease.
The Lakers looked uninspired against a relatively mediocre defensive team in the Portland Trail Blazers. Expect Westbrook and the Rockets to take full advantage of the holes in their defense. Against the Lakers so far this season, Westbrook has averaged 38 points, 8.5 rebounds, and six assists on 65.3 percent shooting from the field.
The energy Russ brings to the table can add to the emerging Rockets defense, which has proven to be great at times when needed most, as well as open up the floor for their deadly 3-point shooting.
Next: Emerging Defense and Lethal 3-Point Shooting