The Lakers face the Rockets Tuesday night for the second consecutive game in Houston after a day off Monday.
The Lakers prevailed on Sunday against the Rockets in a 120 - 102 win behind 27 points from Anthony Davis and 18 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists from LeBron James. The Lakers never trailed after three minutes into the game, and they took advantage of sloppy Rockets turnovers in the blowout win as they outgained the Rockets 32 to seven in fast-break points.
The Rockets struggled with turnovers and three-point shooting on Sunday, but will they be able to regroup on Tuesday and bounce back against a Lakers team that eliminated them from the playoffs last season?
Lakers Finding their FormThe Los Angeles Lakers are beginning to find their form, and it starts with them being an elite defensive team. Anthony Davis criticized the Lakers’ inadequate defense after a 118 - 109 loss to the Spurs last week, and the Lakers responded with a strong defensive effort against the Rockets. After a few sluggish defensive performances in their first few games, the Lakers moved up to third in defensive points per possession allowed (per Cleaning The Glass) - the same ranking where they finished last season.
The Lakers have two of the top ten players in the world in Davis and James, but the supporting cast is starting to find its form after some turnover this offseason. Newcomer Wesley Matthews missed his first eight three-point attempts but has gone 16 for 33 since as he has adjusted to his bench role. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed three games with an ankle injury but returned Sunday for the Rockets game. His shot-making and defensive versatility are valuable for this Lakers team that let Rajon Ronda and Avery Bradley walk in free agency. Talen Horton-Tucker, Montrezl Harrell, and Kyle Kuzma all had strong games against the Rockets as the trio combined for 46 points. If the Lakers get consistency from their role players, they could be even better than last season.
Keys to a Rockets ReboundIf the Rockets hope to upset or cover against the Lakers, they may have to do it without a few of their best players as Eric Gordon (leg) and John Wall (migraine) are questionable to play Tuesday while Danuel House Jr. (health and safety protocols) is out. The Rockets need to shoot the ball much better than they did (29.3%) from three to beat the Lakers on Tuesday.
The Rockets were blown out at home as they made just five of their first 25 threes against the longest defense in the lead that clogged driving lanes with the likes of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Marc Gasol. James Harden made just two of his eight threes and added nine assists, but his teammates missing threes cost him a double-double.
A key player for the Rockets, especially if either or both of Wall and Gordon are out, will be Christian Wood in the rematch against the Lakers. His ability to stretch the floor as a three-point shooter is extremely valuable against the Lakers, but his shots from downtown haven’t been falling as he made just one of five threes Sunday and is shooting just 25.0% from three on the season. The Lakers didn’t respect his ability to shoot from distance and clogged the interior as he flung up bricks. DeMarcus Cousins also can help space the floor as he made two of his four threes before getting (unjustifiably, in my opinion) ejected from the game after a flagrant foul (after he had picked up a technical foul in an altercation with Markieff Morris). If these two can shoot the ball at a high percentage from the perimeter and avoid foul, it will significantly help this Rockets team’s chances against the defending champs.
- Rockets are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
- Rockets are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games following a double-digit loss at home.
- Rockets are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Lakers are 5-1 ATS in the last 6 meetings in Houston.
- Lakers are 5-0 ATS in the last 5 meetings with the Rockets.
- Lakers are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game.