The Los Angeles Lakers’ trip to Texas continues, making a stop in Houston on Wednesday to take on the Rockets.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, LeBron James will return to the starting lineup after missing the loss to the San Antonio Spurs with knee soreness.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James (knee soreness) will return tonight against the Houston Rockets, league sources tell @YahooSports.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) March 9, 2022
Although Allen Horton-Tucker and Malik Monk featured on the Lakers’ injury report with an ankle sprain and calf contusion, respectively, they should also be at head coach Frank Vogel’s disposal.
Injuries ruled out Eric Gordon, Dennis Schroder, and Christian Wood from the Rockets’ clash against the Miami Heat on Monday, but all three have a chance to feature against the Lakers.
Houston remains one of the weakest teams in the NBA. Opponents outscore the Rockets by 9.1 points per 100 possessions, the biggest margin among all 30 teams this season.
Also, they commit the most turnovers, give up the most steals, and are one of the three worst rebounding sides in the NBA.
However, the Lakers can’t afford to underestimate the Rockets — who just recently stunned the soaring Memphis Grizzlies, chalking up a 123-112 win to end their 12-game losing streak.
No. 2 pick Jalen Green seems to have adjusted his game to NBA standards, averaging 18.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.1 steals since the beginning of February. Green struggled to make shots early in the season, but his aim has been significantly better over the last month — his field goal percentage has jumped from 40.3% on the season to 47%, while he’s also been making 37% of his 3s, up from 31.5%.
That should serve as a warning for the Lakers, as outside shooting has been Houston’s strength despite the team’s struggles on both ends on the floor. The Rockets rank top-6 in both 3-point attempts and attempts made.
Kevin Porter Jr., Green, Gordon, and Wood (if the last two end up playing) are all capable of putting the Purple and Gold’s perimeter defense to the test on Monday.
Head coach Frank Vogel might be tempted to start LeBron James at the 5, deploying a lineup that can switch a lot and capitalize on the Rockets’ weaknesses in the paint — where their opponents make 68.2% of their shots around the rim, the second-highest percentage in the NBA.
Lakers (28-36) vs. Rockets (16-49)
5:00 p.m. PT, Mar. 7, 2022
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Malik Monk
SF: Austin Reaves
PF: Stanley Johnson
C: LeBron James
Key Reserves: Carmelo Anthony, Talen Horton-Tucker, D.J. Augustin, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Dwight Howard
Projected Rockets Starting Lineup:
PG: Eric Gordon
SG: Jalen Green
SF: Kevin Porter Jr.
PF: Jae’Sean Tate
C: Christian Wood
Key Reserves: Alperen Sengun, Garrison Mathews, Kenyon Martin Jr.