Here we go again. The Lakers have won seven of their last nine games, they clinched a tie-breaker over the Clippers in the Pacific Division, and appear to be ready for the playoffs. Tonight a rather interesting test awaits them with the Houston Rockets coming to town. The Rockets sit in a tie for the seventh spot, but are just a game and a half back for the fifth position, and a game above the Phoenix Suns for the last playoff spot. This could very well be a preview of the first round for the Lakers.
While 11 games remain for the Purple and Gold, the team does oppose the San Antonio Spurs three times, a team they trail by three and a half games. The Lakers could finish the season on a roll and could swipe away the second seed in the playoffs. Two of the three games will be in San Antonio. Before that the Lakers must focus on the little things beginning tonight against Houston. The team received a big boost from Andrew Bynum, who contributed with 36 points in Wednesday night’s 113-108 victory over the Clippers.
Frontcourt: He just doesn’t go away does he? I refer to Marcus Camby, who has taken over at center for the Rockets in place of Samuel Dalembert. The change has given Houston a whole new attitude. Camby is a defensive-minded player, who guards well and rebounds even better. At his age he struggles to score, and thus rarely attacks the rim.
Chandler Parsons continues to perform with ease, but is not unstoppable. The rookie is struggling to keep possession of the ball, but makes up for it by averaging just under 12 points per game over his last 10. They work alongside Luis Scola, who has given the Lakers a hard time in two games, averaging 21.5 points. He is capable of doing it all for Houston as evidenced in their victory over the Bulls on Monday night when Scola scored 18 points, grabbed 12 boards, had six assists, blocked three shots, and stole the ball twice. What he lacks is a defensive presence. While tough, he is quite undersized at 6’9″.
Backcourt: How could the Rockets miss Kyle Lowry when Goran Dragic has been scoring at will. For the season he is averaging 10.2 points per game. However in his last 10 games he has scored 18.3. In his last five the numbers jumps to 19.8. Let’s not forget how predictable he is. If planned for properly, he can be shut down. The same is the case with Courtney Lee, who has admirably filled in for the injured Kevin Martin. Lee is averaging 16.0 points per game in two matchups with the Lakers. Where Dragic cannot defend, Lee can. Where Dragic goes left, Lee goes right. They compliment each other fantastically, but neither are a complete player.
Houston Rockets (29-25) at Los Angeles Lakers (35-20)
7:30 PM PST, April 6, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Prime Ticket, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Lakers Last Five: 4-1, W @ LAC, W vs NJ, W vs GS, W vs NO, L vs OKC.
Rockets Last Five: 3-2, W @ CHI, L vs IND (2OT), W vs MEM, L @ DAL, W vs SAC (OT).
Rockets Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Goran Dragic
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: Luis Scola
C: Marcus Camby
Key Reserves: F Chase Budinger, F Patrick Patterson
- The Lakers lead the overall series against the Rockets by a margin of 130-63. The Lakers lost their last meeting in Houston on March 20th by the score of 107-104. However, they won their first encounter at Staples in January by the result of 108-99.
- The Lakers are 8-4 since acquiring guard Ramon Sessions from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Much like the Lakers, the Rockets excel at home, posting a record of 20-8. However, their road record of 8-17 is quite detrimental to their playoff chances.
Keys to a Laker Victory:
– Confuse Their Guards
They really are opposites. It won’t make much of a difference when the Lakers play strong defense and render their scoring talents useless.
– Attack Dragic
Goran is foul prone, and the Rockets still remain fairly thin on the depth chart. Dragic’s backup is Earl Boykins, hardly a threat to Ramon Sessions. I expect a big game from Ramon.
– Blitz Them
The Rockets have not played since Monday. With the quick pace of this season, they may come out shooting cold. The Lakers meanwhile have been tested thoroughly against lesser competition, and could enjoy a momentum advantage, especially after their victory against the Clippers. If the Rockets fall behind early, the Lakers will be in great shape.
Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 104, Rockets 91
Worst-Case: Rockets 98, Lakers 95