The Los Angeles Lakers have a prime opportunity to end their season-long five-game losing streak as they head to Houston to take on the Rockets, who are in the midst of their own four-game slump. The Lakers are currently ninth in the West while the Rockets have the worst record in the conference.
The Lakers have been dropping games in spite of the brilliance of LeBron James, who has been absolutely outstanding as of late. Over the last five games, LeBron is averaging 31.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists while shooting 55.7% from the field.
James has been doing everything possible to turn things around for the Lakers, but it is clear that the rest of the team will need to step up in a big way for the Lakers to get in the win column. Chief among them is Russell Westbrook, who is coming off a rough night on Christmas against the Brooklyn Nets.
Westbrook shot just 4-of-20 on the night and missed a number of shots at the rim that he normally wouldn’t. The Lakers point guard will be looking for a huge bounceback game and in fairness, Westbrook had three straight good performances before his Christmas night struggles.
The Lakers were also happy to welcome Malik Monk back, who gives the team another huge offensive boost off the bench as he scored 20 points in his return game against the Nets. Talen Horton-Tucker also had a solid outing on Christmas and the Lakers have continually maintained their belief in what he can become.
Additionally, Stanley Johnson made an immediate impact in his first game in purple and gold and will surely get another opportunity on Tuesday.
L.A. is without Wayne Ellington in this one due to a non-COVID illness, while Anthony Davis and Kendrick Nunn remain out with injuries and Austin Reaves, Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza and Rajon Rondo remain in health and safety protocols.
These two teams met twice in back-to-back games earlier in the season with the Lakers coming out on top both times, though both took place in L.A. On paper, the Lakers have a great chance to get their offense back on track as the Rockets rank near the bottom in nearly every defensive category. But Houston does shine in a couple of areas where the Lakers struggle.
Houston ranks in the top-10 in both points in the paint and second-chance points, which are areas that have doomed the Lakers all season long. With the team also turning towards very small lineups with either LeBron or Carmelo Anthony at the center, it opens up the possibility of being dominated in the paint even more.
No game is a guarantee for the Lakers this season, but even with the players they have out, they sorely need to win this one.
Lakers (16-18) vs. Rockets (10-24)
5:00 p.m. PT, Dec. 27, 2021
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Talen Horton-Tucker
SF: Avery Bradley
PF: LeBron James
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Malik Monk, Carmelo Anthony, Darren Collison, Stanley Johnson
Projected Rockets Starting Lineup:
PG: Armani Brooks
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Josh Christopher
PF: David Nwaba
C: Christian Wood
Key Reserves: Alperen Sengun, Trevelin Queen, Daniel Theis, Daishen Nix
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