Without a doubt, the main headline coming in tonight’s match-up is going to be Dwight Howard. But because of the absence of Kobe Bryant, and perhaps even worse, the lack of team depth for the Lakers, this game doesn’t quite provide the excitement that it was expected to.
Nonetheless, there is still a game to played, and they Lakers will have to play a near-perfect game if they expect to upset the Rockets on the second night of a back-to-back on the road.
The Lakers have been playing well offensively as of late with the addition of Kendall Marshall into the starting lineup, but they have somehow lost sight of to play defense giving up more than 100 points over their last two games. The Rockets are the fourth highest scoring team in the league averaging 105.6 points per game, and we can expect James Harden and Dwight Howard to be ready to play, as they were thoroughly disappointed in their performance against the Lakers on November 7, 2013.
Frontcourt: Unfortunately for the Laker fans who have watched the Rockets play this year, Dwight Howard looks to be fully engaged, and has been playing very well. He comes in averaging 17.8 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. Pau had success defending Dwight in their first match-up, but due to ailing injuries, it would be surprising to see Pau replicate that.
The Lakers will certainly have to send help to Pau on the block if Dwight catches it too deep. Pau must focus on staying out of foul trouble and on keeping Dwight off the offensive glass.
Terrence Jones has surprisingly turned into a formidable big man after being elevated into the starting lineup alongside Dwight. Jones is a natural forward, and provides the spacing that is needed to make this offense flow. The other starter in the frontcourt is Chandler Parsons, who is perhaps the best bargain in the league due to his low salary (under $1 million per year) and high production. He is a rising star in the league, and comes in averaging 17.2 points per game, along with 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
Backcourt: The primary options in the backcourt for the Rockets’ are none other than James Harden and Jeremy Lin. Lin is one of the best players in the league at driving to the basket and drawing fouls, and Harden is one of the more polished scorers in the game of basketball.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, with Bryant, Henry, Blake, and Farmar out, the task of guarding Harden and Lin will fall on Jodie Meeks, Kendall Marshall, and Nick Young. There isn’t much that Coach D’Antoni can do, as there will likely be mismatches across the board tonight.
Keys To The Game
Keeping Houston Off The Glass: In order to run and get out in the open court, the Lakers have to rebound on the defensive end. The Rockets rank 7th in the NBA in rebounds per game, and Dwight Howard tends to control the paint against every team he is matched up against. If the Lakers can’t rebound, then expect Howard and Jones to collect their fair share of offensive boards and for the Rockets to rack up second chance points.
Limit Turnovers: With only one active point guard in Kendall Marshall, the Lakers have a tough task ahead of them in running Coach D’Antoni’s system. This team has struggled with turnovers due to the lack of point guard depth, and it’s been tough for D’Antoni to adjust his coaching philosophies amidst that predicament. The Lakers have to limit their turnovers because against a younger, more athletic Rockets team, turnovers will lead to easy baskets in transition.
Three-Point Makes: It’s known that much of the Lakers’ success this season has come from their ability to convert from behind three-point line at a high level. That was the one thing that kept them close with Houston in their last matchup, and they’ll have to rely on that again if they want to win tonight. They are one of the better three-point shooting teams in the league, and it’s been proven that if they can’t capitalize on open opportunities, then it’s tough for them to win ball games.
Houston Rockets (22-13) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (14-21)
5:00 PM PST, January 8, 2014
Toyota Center, Houston, TX
TV: Time Warner Cable Sportsnet, NBA TV
Radio: ESPN LA 710
Rockets Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: James Harden
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: Terrence Jones
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: PG Aaron Brooks SF Francisco Garcia GF Omri Casspi
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Pau Gasol
C: Robert Sacre
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