The Los Angeles Lakers continue to play out the string of their season when they host the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, and the main thing left to watch for is whether Josh Hart can continue to show how much he’s grown as a rookie when he gets his latest shot at covering MVP-frontrunner James Harden.
Hart recently said the biggest thing he learned about guarding players like Harden during his first season is that he “can’t touch them,” and the Rockets coming to town will be an opportunity to see if he’s fully learned that lesson. If Hart does get baited into a few foul calls, he’s hardly the only one, as Harden is averaging a league-leading 10.2 points per game this season.
Making Hart’s efforts to slow Harden more complicated are the larger offensive responsibilities that have been placed on him while Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram are out with injuries.
Hart has scored 20 or more points in the Lakers’ last two games after only having one such game over the entire season before his current stretch. That one game? A career-high 26 points against the Rockets.
It might not be easy for Hart to replicate that type of production as the focal point of the Lakers’ offense rather than a secondary scorer, especially not against Houston’s sixth-ranked defense that only allows 103.9 points per 100 possessions.
The Lakers have lacked the shooting to space defenses like that out and force them to spread themselves to thin this season while ranking second-to-last in the league in 3-point percentage (34.4 percent), but they might be getting some help in that department.
Los Angeles signed Andre Ingram, the G League’s all-time leader in made threes with 713, for the rest of the season, and the minor league veteran could potentially give them some sorely needed spacing.
Ingram shot a team-high 47.5 percent on 4.6 3-point attempts per game with the South Bay Lakers, and if that translates in his first glimpse of NBA action, he could give the Lakers’ offense a different dimension against the Rockets on Tuesday, or the Clippers on Wednesday.
It just might not be enough. The Rockets have the best record in the NBA as well as a league-best offense that averages 112.7 points per 100 possessions. With their seeding locked up and theoretically nothing to play for, it’s possible that the motley group of Lakers remaining could upset them, especially if Houston rests players.
It’s just not particularly likely, and this could be a rough game for L.A.
Los Angeles Lakers (34-46) Vs Houston Rockets (64-16):
7:30 P.M. PST, April 3, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Alex Caruso
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Josh Hart
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Tyler Ennis, Ivica Zubac, Travis Wear, Gary Payton II, Andre Ingram
Projected Rockets Starting Lineup:
PG: Chris Paul
SG: James Harden
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: PJ Tucker
C: Clint Capela
Key Reserves: Luc Mbah a Moute, Gerald Green, Nene Hilario, Joe Johnson
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