The Los Angeles Lakers are in danger of undoing all of the good work they have recently been putting in. Following a five-game win streak, the Lakers have now lost three straight, with the last two coming in excruciating fashion in close losses to the Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks. But LeBron James and co. have the ideal remedy to get them back on track in the Houston Rockets, who have the worst record in the NBA.
James will be looking to continue his excellent play after becoming the second player in NBA history to reach 38,000 career points. But the loss to Philly obviously didn’t sit well with him and for good reason. James is about winning and there is no doubt he wants to make a statement at the expense of the Rockets despite previously being listed as questionable.
As usual, the question is where his help will come from. Russell Westbrook came under some criticism for his decisions in the final possession against the 76ers, but he remains absolutely crucial for this Lakers team with his aggression and playmaking for his teammates.
The Lakers should also look to get Thomas Bryant going after back-to-back disappointing outings for the big man. Bryant has been excellent up to this point and getting him back to the level he had been would be a huge boost. The Lakers will also need some more consistent production from their wings. Troy Brown Jr. hit some big shots against Philly, and rookie Max Christie will get a look as well, especially for his defense against Houston’s young guards.
The good news is that Patrick Beverley is returning after a two-game absence with a non-COVID illness.
He should help handle Jalen Green, who is Houston’s leading scorer and can score in bunches at any time. The same goes for Kevin Porter Jr., though his status remains in the air as he deals with a foot injury.
Maybe the most important area for the Lakers to focus on, however, will be the glass as the Rockets are one of the best offensive-rebounding teams in the league. They rank third in the NBA in offensive rebounds and second-chance points with big man Alperen Sengun leading the charge there. Bryant and Wenyen Gabriel must be sure to keep a body on him at all times.
But all in all, this is a game the Lakers should win as the Rockets simply aren’t a good team. They rank dead last in opposing points of turnovers and fast break points so if the Lakers come in locked in defensively, they should be able to create some easy baskets and run away with this game. But if they allow Houston to hang around, it could be another disappointing finish.
Los Angeles Lakers (19-24) vs. Houston Rockets (10-33)
7:30 p.m. PT, January 16, 2023
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: Troy Brown Jr.
PF: LeBron James
C: Thomas Bryant
Key Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Max Christie, Wenyen Gabriel, Kendrick Nunn
Projected Rockets Starting Lineup:
PG: Jalen Green
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Kenyon Martin Jr.
PF: Jabari Smith Jr.
C: Alperen Sengun
Key Reserves: Jae’Sean Tate, Usman Garuba, Tari Eason, Josh Christopher
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