Lakers vs. Rockets Pre-Game Report: The Start of the D’Antoni Era

Coach Mike D’Antoni makes his long awaited debut on the sidelines tonight when the Lakers take on the Rockets. Lakers fans everywhere are excited and eager to see if D’Antoni has what it takes to turn the Lakers into a championship contender. It’s unlikely that the offense will change instantly, but we may start seeing signs of how he plans to utilize the Lakers star-studded lineup.

Tonight the Lakers face a young and talented Rockets team led by James Harden and Jeremy Lin. If you recall, during the off-season the Rockets made a bid at Dwight Howard and tried to acquire him by trading their young assets. In the end, they lost the bid and Dwight Howard ended up with the Lakers. The Lakers and Rockets couldn’t be more different from one another. The Lakers feature a veteran lineup with proven all-stars and future hall of famers while the Rockets are a team filled with budding third year players or younger. Let’s dive into tonight’s matchup.

Frontcourt: Omer Asik is a seven foot giant who is averaging a double-double along with 1.2 blocks. It looks like the Daryl Morey’s gamble of paying Asik $25 million over three years might pay off. Asik is a very good rebounder (13.2 rebounds, 4.7 offensive boards), so Dwight will have to focus on boxing him out. At the four, Patrick Patterson is solid with averages of 10.9 points and five boards. He is a bit undersized and at 6’9’’ he will have trouble with the length of Gasol. Chandler Parsons has taken his game to new heights in his sophomore season. He is hitting 2.1 treys per game up from 1.0 last year and he’s the teams second leading scorer with 13.1 points per game. Parsons is an athletic young player who will continue to improve. MWP will need to defend him closely.

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Backcourt: The Rockets starting backcourt features two media darlings who are playing their first year in Houston. In a surprise trade just before the start of the season, James Harden was sent from the Thunder to the Rockets. Harden was given a max contract by the Rockets and has responded by playing like an all-star. He’s averaging 26.4 points, 4.6 boards and 4.4 assists. His backcourt mate, Jeremy Lin, lit up Lakers for 38 points during the peak of Linsanity last year. He started off the season well, but has struggled lately; overall he is shooting just 33.3% from the field. Lin has notably stepped it up on the defensive end (2.5 steals) and has cut down on turnovers (2.5 per game). Toney Douglas and Carlos Delfino are the key backups for the Rockets. Douglas is an ineffective scoring point guard and Delfino is a sharpshooter who has averaged nearly two three pointers per game.

Key to Lakers’ Victory:
Limit Turnovers: Turnovers remain a huge problem for the Lakers as they are worst in the league with 16.7 TO’s per game. Hopefully D’Antoni’s offensive scheme will clean up some of the sloppy play, but it’s unlikely to happen overnight. Typically turnovers lead to fast breaks which the Lakers are terrible at defending. The bottom line is that the Lakers can’t expect to win if they continue to be cavalier with the ball.

Force the Rockets Frontcourt to Score: The Rocket’s offense hinges on the effectiveness of Harden and Lin. If the Lakers backcourt can limit the young duo, then the Rockets will be hard-pressed to score. Harden and Lin are both great slashers who can get to the rim so Kobe and Morris will have their hands full.

In addition, Parsons is a sharpshooting three pointer who can get hot from beyond the arc, so the Lakers need to guard the perimeter closely and force the ball to Asik and Patterson. Neither Asik or Patterson are very developed offensively so Howard and Gasol should have the advantage in the paint.

Houston Rockets (4-5) at Los Angeles Lakers (4-5)
6:30 PM PST, November 18, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC Sports Network
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Rockets Projected Starting Line-up

PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: James Harden
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: Patrick Patterson
C: Omer Asik

Key Reserves: GF: Carlos Delfino PG: Toney Douglas PF: Marcus Morris

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