The Houston Rockets come next for the Los Angeles Lakers in their quest to find some of the pre-hiatus form and consistency before the NBA Playoffs begin in the Walt Disney World bubble.
The Lakers are coming off a disappointing 105-86 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in their fourth seeding game when the same flaws, which have been setting them back since the NBA restart, resurfaced.
Los Angeles started the game slow and struggled to make open shots, shooting just 35% from the field, including a nightmare 5-for-37 (14%) behind the arc. Their 86 points were the fewest they scored this season. Anthony Davis finished the game with only nine points after falling into foul trouble early.
The Lakers have already secured the top seed in the Western Conference, but the Rockets clash is significant nevertheless. Every game counts as the Lakers are still looking to find the same rhythm they played with before the league was shut down.
Head coach Frank Vogel admitted he is still figuring out his most efficient rotations and how to utilize midseason additions Dion Waiters, Markieff Morris, and JR Smith. Meanwhile, James and Davis still suffer dips from game to game, and Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma continue adjusting to their new, bigger roles.
Vogel said he did not anticipate big personnel changes for the Rockets game, although he did not rule out altering the starting lineup in future seeding games. A few players are also nursing some injuries, which might impact Vogel’s game plan.
As such, James was ruled out due to a sore right groin that has nagged him for the past two seasons now. Alex Caruso (left neck muscle spasms) was also ruled out.
Furthermore, Anthony Davis (sprained right ankle), Markieff Morris (left hip contusion), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (right ribs contusion) and Dwight Howard (sore right knee) are all probable. Howard missed the game against the Thunder, and Vogel was hopeful he would return on the second night of the back-to-back.
The game serves as a preview to a potential second-round playoff showdown. The Lakers are yet to see how they will cope with Houston’s small-ball lineup led by the explosive duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. The two guards are averaging 57.7 points per game since the NBA restart, shooting 46.5% from the field.
The Rockets started the seeding games strong, defeating the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks before falling to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. They struggle on the glass and often fail to maintain the same level of intensity during games.
But Houston has also proved to be an offensive force characterized by persistence and hustle, and with a defense more-than-capable of disrupting the opponent by forcing turnovers.
Houston won’t have Westbrook because of a right quad contusion. He is being replaced in the lineup by Ben McLemore.
Lakers (51-16) vs. Rockets (42-25)
6 p.m. PT, Aug. 6, 2020
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, Florida
TV: TNT, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: ESPN L.A. 710
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Quinn Cook
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Danny Green
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Dion Waiters, Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris, JR Smith, JaVale McGee
Projected Raptors Starting Lineup:
PG: Ben McLemore
SG: James Harden
SF: Danuel House Jr.
PF: Robert Covington
C: P.J. Tucker
Key Reserves: Jeff Green, Austin Rivers
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