The Los Angeles Lakers were able to take care of business in their first-round playoff series, defeating the Portland Trail Blazers in five games.
That gave them plenty of time to rest while awaiting their second-round opponent, which would be the winner of the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder series.
The two teams ultimately needed seven games, with the Rockets coming away with a two-point victory in Game 7 to advance and take on the Lakers, which should make for an interesting series.
L.A. and Houston could not be more polar opposites in terms of style of play. The Lakers rely on their size and scoring in the paint while the Rockets are the smallest team in the league and also ranked first in 3-point attempts.
Before their Western Conference Semifinals matchup begins on Friday night at 6 p.m. PT, a look back at the three regular-season meetings the Lakers and Rockets and played.
Jan. 18: Lakers 124, Rockets 115
A theme of the Lakers and Rockets’ meetings this season is that star players have been out, which was the case for Anthony Davis in the first head-to-head meeting.
Without Davis, the Lakers got off to a slow start and found themselves trailing by six at the half. They rode a big third quarter in which they outscored Houston by 15, cruising to a nine-point victory.
As is normally the case, LeBron James led the way with 31 points, 12 assists and five rounds on 13-of-25 shooting. Kyle Kuzma got the start in Davis’ absence and stepped up in a big way, providing 23 points and eight rebounds on 8-of-16 shooting.
This was before the Rockets traded center Clint Capela, but they still received solid games from their two stars. James Harden finished with 34 points, six rebounds and seven assists while Russell Westbrook had 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Feb. 6: Rockets 121, Lakers 111
The second meeting was the only one with both teams at full strength and came just after the trade deadline when the Rockets fully committed to small ball.
That led to Davis dominating to the tune of 32 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks on 14-of-21 shooting. That wasn’t enough though as the Lakers had no answer for Westbrook, who finished with 41 points, eight rebounds and five assists on 17-of-28 shooting.
A lot of the Rockets’ success depends on their 3-point shooting, and they hit them at a 45.2% clip (19-of-42) in this one. Couple that with a poor shooting outing from James, who was just 8-of-19 from the field for 18 points while also contributing 15 assists and nine rebounds, and the Lakers were not able to make a late comeback.
Aug. 6: Rockets 113, Lakers 97
The final regular-season matchup between these two teams was a seeding game in the Orlando bubble in which both James and Westbrook sat out. Considering the Lakers had the No. 1 seed in the West already locked up, they opted to give James some extra rest.
That proved costly as Davis’ as the Lakers’ lone star was not enough and the Rockets earned a blowout victory. In his 30 minutes, Davis had 17 points, 12 rebounds and three assists on 5-of-8 shooting.
Houston consistently doubled Davis in the post and he did not handle it all that well, turning the ball over seven times. The same will likely happen in the postseason so Davis will have to improve his passing ability out of a double team.
Harden led the way for Houston, scoring 39 points on 11-of-19 shooting while also hitting all 12 of his free-throw attempts and contributing eight rebounds, 12 assists and three steals.
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