The Los Angeles Lakers look to keep their perfect road record intact as the face the Houston Rockets in a rematch from Sunday night. L.A. can secure their third straight road series sweep this season, having done so to the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies already.
The first contest against the Rockets was the Lakers’ best defensive performance of the season as they forced 21 turnovers on the night and got their hands on any number of balls. Anthony Davis returned to the lineup after a game off and dominated offensively with 27 points while also setting the tone on defense with three blocks.
That effort is something that the Lakers will need to replicate if they plan on coming away with a second straight win. The team held Houston to just 41.1% shooting and 29.3% from 3-point range. Most importantly, they did an excellent job of containing former MVP James Harden, holding him to just 20 points on 14 shots.
But Frank Vogel is just as focused on making sure the rest of the Rockets don’t get going as well. “[Harden] can have nights where he goes for 40-plus points but if other guys aren’t going and we get the W, that’s a successful night,” Vogel said prior to Sunday’s contest.
“Sometimes if you try to take the ball out of his hands and let other guys get going at the 3-point line and you lose the game, that’s not a successful night. You want to be able to do as good of job on him as you can and not worry about his individual numbers but worry about the team’s offensive output and how much we’re holding them back. That’s the biggest thing for us.”
The returns of Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the continued improvement of Talen Horton-Tucker have infused the Lakers with a ton of energy and defensive effort and also give them the ability to throw different looks at the opposing team’s top perimeter player.
The trio combined for nine steals in Sunday’s win, led by four from Horton-Tucker.
That defense allowed the Lakers to get out in transition where they are unstoppable and if they can continue to force turnovers it could be more of the same in this game. When in the halfcourt, ball movement remains the key. The Lakers had 28 assists with five players totaling at least three.
The Lakers didn’t even need a monstrous offensive effort from LeBron James, who scored just 18 points, but games like that rarely repeat so a big scoring night could be in store. The Lakers almost always have the two best players on the court in LeBron and Davis, but the Rockets are one of the few teams who can argue against that being the case.
But as long as the Lakers come out focused on defense the way they did Sunday, the Rockets, or any team for that matter, don’t stand much of a chance.
Jared Dudley (right calf soreness) and Wesley Matthews (right Achilles soreness) remain out Tuesday, and Davis (right adductor strain) and James (left ankle sprain) are questionable. Caldwell-Pope (left ankle sprain) is probable.
Lakers (8-3) vs. Rockets (3-5)
5:00 p.m. PT, Jan. 12, 2021
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Dennis Schroder
SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Alex Caruso, Wesley Matthews, Kyle Kuzma, Talen Horton-Tucker, Markieff Morris
Projected Rockets starting lineup:
PG: John Wall
SG: James Harden
SF: David Nwaba
PF: PJ Tucker
C: Christian Wood
Key Reserves: Eric Gordon, DeMarcus Cousins, Sterling Brown, Ben McLemore
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