The Houston Rockets are set to face the Los Angeles Lakers in a second-round showdown. To pull off the upset, all they have to do is shut down LeBron James.
The Houston Rockets‘ reward for winning a grueling seven-game series against the Oklahoma City Thunder is facing the Western Conference one seed Los Angeles Lakers. Led by NBA superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers employee the league’s best one-two punch.
Defeating the Lakers is no easy task as their 52-19 regular record can attest to. However, as their 19 losses suggest, the Lakers can be beaten. The question is, how do you beat the Lakers? The answer is as simple as it is devastating. To beat the Lakers, you need to beat LeBron.
Cliches are cliches for a reason. They’re usually true, and none rings truer than the great adage, “it’s a make or miss league.” The Lakers, while employing two superstars in Davis and James, are unusually dependent on LeBron James to generate offense. When LeBron hits his shots, the Lakers are near unbeatable.
In games this season where LeBron shot 50 percent or better from the field, the Lakers went 31-4. However, when LeBron wasn’t able to eclipse the 50 percent mark, the Lakers morphed into a much more pedestrian team that went 19-14.
To put the difference in context, the Lakers play at a 72.6 win pace over 82 games when LeBron hits 50 percent or more of his shots, but when he fails to reach those heights, they play at a 47.2 win pace over 82 games.
The Lakers are still a playoff team even if LeBron isn’t efficient from the field, but it’s the difference between playing the ‘96-97 Bulls and this year’s 76ers. If the Rockets want to have a chance in the series, they need to keep LeBron’s scoring in check. The question is, how the hell do you do that?
Next: Stopping the unstoppable