Lakers vs. Rockets Pre-Game Report: Lakers Begin Their Texas-Trip in Houston

Los Angeles Lakers (28-17) at Houston Rockets (24-22)
5:00 PM PST, March 20, 2012
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
TV: KCAL
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)

Rockets Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Goran Dragic
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: Luis Scola
C: Samuel Dalembert

Key Reserves: F Chase Budinger, F Patrick Patterson

Lakers Last Five: 4-1, L vs UTA, W vs MIN, W @ NO, W @ MEM, W vs BOS.
Rockets Last Five:
2-3, L @ PHX, L @ LAC, W vs CHA, W @ OKC, L @ CLE.

Tonight it is back to the road for the Lakers who were defeated at home for the first time in two months on Sunday night at the hands of Paul Millsap and the Utah Jazz. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Kobe and company. Nevertheless the team finds themselves a game-and-a-half in front of the Clippers atop of the Pacific Division, and six games behind the Thunder for homecourt advantage in the Western Conference Playoffs. Currently they are seeded third. Homecourt is important for the Lakers who struggle terribly on the road, posting a 9-14 record away from Staples. At home, they are a Western Conference-best 19-3.

From this point, 10 of the remaining 21 games will be played on the road beginning tonight in Houston where the Lakers begin a quick two-game trip to Texas with a matchup against the Rockets.

Frontcourt: The Rockets continue to increase the minutes of rookie Chandler Parsons, and he is running with them, seeing his numbers increase by the month. Parsons is averaging 12.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in the month of March. He is a smart player that is very unselfish. Still he is very green and has much to learn. Over the weekend he missed Houston’s game against the Clippers with the flu. He played against Phoenix, but was visibly slowed down. With the difficulties, the Rockets relied on Luis Scola to pick up the slack. While Scola is capable of going off on any given night (such as his 30-point outing against the Cavaliers on March 11), he is also capable of being shut down by a good defense (such as that of the Lakers). Scola was held to 28 percent shooting against the Clippers, resulting in further frustration for Houston, and eventually a defeat. Still Scola is one of Rick Adelman’s most reliable players, giving him 15.5 points, and 6.6 rebounds per game. Finally, the Rockets have the always-reliable Samuel Dalembert down center. Dalembert is as consistent as they come, not falling under eight points in the month of March, but exceeding 15 just once. Dalembert’s strength is his defensive presence. He is blocking 1.9 shots per game.

Backcourt: The Rockets have been without two tremendous pieces of their offense with Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin’s absence. Making the most out of this is backup Courtney Lee. Lee is the kind of sharpshooter that can give team’s fits. But buyer beware: he is very streaky, all the more reason why he sits while Martin plays. In four games as a starter, Lee is averaging 12.4 points, which is inflated by a 25-point effort against the Clippers, and a 21-point outing in Oklahoma against the Thunder. Then you have Dragic who is seemingly doing the impossible by continuing with Lowry’s improbable season. Dragic is averaging 16 points per game in Houston’s six games minus their point guard. That nearly matches Lowry’s 15.9 points per game. Goran is averaging 9.1 assists in that time-frame, which outdoes Lowry’s 7.2. In other words, the Rockets are not missing much. Dragic is very good on the offensive side of the ball, but is prone to turning the ball over.

Fun Facts:

  • The Lakers lead the overall series against the Rockets by a margin of 130-62. The Lakers have won two straight games. The team lost their last game in Houston on December 1, 2010 by a score of 109-99.
  • New Laker forward Jordan Hill has been cleared to play with Derek Fisher reaching a buyout agreement with the Rockets. Hill slots in as the fifth big man on the squad behind reserves Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts.
  • The Rockets were held to just 13 points in the first quarter of their most recent defeat against the Suns, a season-low.

Keys to a Laker Victory:

Attack Dragic
Yes he will score, but he will go to the left 95 percent of the time. He turns the ball over very much, and likely will find himself in foul trouble. The depth on the Rockets bench does not go very far. Their next option is at guard is rookie Courtney Fortson.

Put Parsons in Pressure Situations
The rookie is good, but has not yet developed into a reliable player for Houston. He is a terrible free throw shooter (43 percent) that can cost the Rockets important points. Many feel that he could become the next David Lee, but he is not there yet.

Shake-off the Loss
The Lakers are 9-6 in games following a defeat. The odds of Kobe shooting 3-of-20 happening in this game are slim given that the Rockets are allowing 97.7 points per game. Look for the team to come out with fire.

Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 104, Rockets 96
Worst-Case: Rockets 101, Lakers 98

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