Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers (3-3)
7:30 PM PST, January 3, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Rockets Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Chase Budinger
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Luis Scola
Key Reserves: Samuel Dalembert, Courtney Lee, Goran Dragic
Frontcourt: The Rockets are a team that has a noticeably thin frontline. After center Yao Ming was forced to retire due to an injury the team was left without much of a post game. While Luis Scola is a strong power forward, he doesn’t have the size or power to match up against players like Andrew Bynum. Still, Houston has Samuel Dalembert coming off the bench to provide some minutes and defensive production.
Obviously the thin frontline is one of the main reasons the team was looking to acquire Pau Gasol from Los Angeles during the pre-season in the vetoed trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. But, once that trade fell apart the Rockets realized they would have to look elsewhere or make due with what they currently have. So far they’ve been using the latter approach.
Backcourt: With such a thin power game it’s no surprise that the Rockets make up for it with dynamic scorers in the guard positions. Both Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin can be electric players, averaging 32.6 points between the two of them so far this year. Lowry also gets plenty of work done in other areas of the box score as well, averaging 11.5 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game as well.
On the bench Houston has Courtney Lee, who is very familiar with Los Angeles shooting guard Kobe Bryant. Lee, who was a member of the 2009 Orlando Magic squad that faced Bryant’s Lakers in the NBA Finals, is a strong defensive slasher that can occasionally knock down a three-point shot. Depending on how much time he spends on the court with Bryant, Lee has the potential to pester Kobe offensively and keep him honest on defense.
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Keys to Lakers Victory:
-Limit Three-Point Shot Attempts
After struggling down the stretch in their game on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets the Lakers will look to find a little more consistency on Tuesday night. After tying the game at 90 points apiece the Lakers saw the Nuggets score the game’s final nine points to win by a final of 99-90. Los Angeles slammed their own coffin shut by taking far too many three-point baskets. The outside shooting was a strong advantage for L.A. during their three game winning streak, but in the games they have lost this season they’ve struggled mightily from behind the arc.
-Utilize Bynum and Gasol
The major point of emphasis for the Lakers will be to attack the paint on offense. Obviously Scola, Hill and Dalembert are no match for the length and power of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. If Bynum continues his aggressive play Tuesday night it will be very difficult for Houston to contain him. The Lakers guards, Bryant included, need to make it a point to get the ball inside to Bynum and Gasol. Those two players were the top two scorers for the Lakers on Sunday in Denver, and should be able to get even better numbers against an undersized Rockets frontline.
-Contain Houston’s Backcourt
Obviously Martin and Lowry are the two main points of emphasis in the Houston offense. The Lakers have faced their fair share of tough guards this season (Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, Ty Lawson), and it won’t get much easier on Tuesday night. Lowry is a pass-first guard that isn’t afraid to shoot, while Martin shows no fear no matter his positioning on the court. If the Lakers struggle rotating and covering three-point shooters like they have during the first week of the season they might be in for a long night in Tuesday.
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