The Lakers are back in action tonight, facing the Houston Rockets for the third time this season. The two teams split the previous pair of games, and the Lakers are looking to avenge on of their three home losses on the season. Just as Ron Artest might be returning to the mix after a Christmas Day concussion, Pau Gasol is looking at a period of time off the court as he recovers from yet another hamstring strain. Some silver lining for Los Angeles, however, is that this is not the same hamstring that sidelined Gasol for eleven games at the start of the season. The Rockets might be the NBA’s hardest playing team, so Los Angeles must not overlook them like they have other opponents throughout the season. Here are a few key’s to tonight’s Western Conference Semi-Finals rematch:
- Start Strong – Recently the Lakers have fallen behind early in games and have had to dig themselves out of large deficits in the second half. That changed on Sunday night against Dallas, but Los Angeles must not fall into that trap again tonight. Houston plays harder than any other team in the league, and a lack of energy and extensive early deficit will spell doom for the Lakers.
- Injury Concerns – While Artest may be coming back tonight, the Lakers are immediately faced with another star injury. Pau Gasol strained his left hamstring in the first quarter of Sunday night’s game. Gasol missed the first eleven games of the season for Los Angeles and the Lakers struggled. If Gasol is out for an extended period of time the Houston Rockets are going to be the least of the Lakers’ worries.
- Bench Mob – The bench exploded on Sunday night with a season high 66 points, led by Jordan Farmar’s career high-tying 24. While it is unlikely that the Lakers bench gets that much of an effort tonight, they must continue to improve every game and provide the Los Angeles starters with a dependable back-up plan.
Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV: FS West
Radio: 710 ESPN (NEW home of the Los Angeles Lakers)