The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of their best win of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks and will go for two in a row versus the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. The Lakers lost badly to the Rockets this past Saturday, 126-97, but they will try to put their poor performance behind them.
The Rockets chemistry is in turmoil as rumors have suggested that Dwight Howard is unhappy playing in the shadow of James Harden. Howard recently denied the rumors, but this is not the first time he has denied rumors that happened to be true. Regardless of the validity of the rumors, the Rockets are struggling to win games and the Lakers have another winnable game ahead of them.
Dwight Howard did not hurt the Lakers in their last matchup, but he did manage to score 18 points and with 12 rebounds in the game. It was not that Howard dominated the matchup, but rather the Lakers beat themselves mentally because it was the last game of a long road trip. Howard will continue to be a big body in the middle, and the Lakers need to keep him off the glass.
Howard’s running mate in the frontcourt, Clint Capela, posted a double-double of his own with 11 points and 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes. Capela was an unexpected contributor in Saturday’s game, but the Lakers will pay more attention to him this time around at home. Terrence Jones also had a near double-double off of the bench with nine points and nine rebounds, so the Lakers big men will have be more efficient down low this time around.
James Harden expectedly scored at will against the Lakers on Saturday and helped put the game away early. Harden dropped 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting from the field and the Lakers did not have an answer for him. The Lakers did a sufficient job keeping him off of the free throw line, but overall, they will need to make a better effort to slow him down.
Patrick Beverley shot poorly from the field, which is not much of a surprise, but the Lakers still cannot lose track of him in tonight’s game. He was the Rockets least efficient starter and he will look to redeem himself after D’Angelo Russell had a strong first half against him in the last game.
Keys To Victory:
Quick Start: The Lakers started the game against the Bucks strong and never looked back. They did have a lull in scoring and the Bucks regained a one-point lead at one point, but the Lakers bounced back and pushed the margin to 22 points at one juncture in the game. The Lakers played with confidence because of their quick start and they should look to do the same against the Rockets.
Revitalized Kobe: It has been noted that Kobe Bryant has deferred to the young core in recent games, and in doing so, he has been a more efficient basketball player. Kobe’s shooting percentage has been much improved over the past several games and he claims that he finally has his legs under him. Instead of Kobe being detrimental to the team with poor shot selection, he is being a distributor and creating better opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Shut Down Harden: The Lakers beat themselves in their last matchup with the Rockets, but James Harden did have a dominant game in the blowout. If the Lakers can limit Harden’s offensive efficiency, they will put themselves in a favorable position to win. The Rockets lack serious offensive threats outside of Harden, so slowing him down will be crucial to the Lakers fifth win of the season.
Los Angeles Lakers (4-21) vs. Houston Rockets (12-14)
7:30 P.M. PST, December 17, 2015
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 ESPN (English)/ 1330 (Spanish)
Rockets Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Patrick Beverley
SG: James Harden
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: Clint Capela
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: PG: Jason Terry, SF: Corey Brewer, PF: Terrance Jones
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: PF: Julius Randle, SG: Nick Young, PG: D’Angelo Russell