The Houston Rockets and Los Angles Lakers face off in ABC first NBA primetime game of the year. The Lakers come in with the Western Conference-best record at 33-8. The Rockets come in needing win losers of three of their last four games. The Rockets currently sit at fifth in the Western Conference at 26-14. I will break down each matchup and give who has the advantage at each position.
In years past Russell Westbrook vs Los Angles point guards would have been a slam dunk( no pun attended) but this year a certain former MVP and future Hall of Famers are now running point. LeBron James has moved to point guard and leads the league in assist.
Westbrook play has improved leaps and bounds since the start of the year but this is an easy decision James is leading the Laker in multiple categories and that’s why the Lakers have the advantage at the point.
Avery Bradley is averaging his lowest points per game since his second year in the league but that’s not why he is on the roster. Bradley brings defense and veteran leadership to the Lakers. In this matchup though it’s pretty one-sided. James Harden leads the league in scoring by a wide margin.
Harden shot has been off lately only shooting 38-117 over his last five games. The likely hood is that the Lakers will double him as most teams do but that should open up opportunities for Harden teammates. The question is will they make them?
This matchup is a tale of two different types of players. Ben McLemore moved back into the starting lineup a few games ago for one particular reason. To provide consistent outside shooting since Danuel House has struggled mightily with his shot. McLemore started the season slowly but has moved his 3-point percentage up to .367 and is averaging the most points per game (10.4) since his second year in the league.
Danny Green is similar to Bradley an above-average defender who at times can still be elite. Green also brings outside shooting and stability to the Lakers starting lineup. Over the years Green has been a Rocket killer from his days with the Spurs. This is the classic example of two heads of a coin. This matchup is a push since both players bring different advantages to the table.
To start with this is contingent on if Anthony Davis is in the lineup tonight since he has been out the last several games. Anthony Davis is currently second in blocks and sixth in scoring. Davis is a legitimate MVP candidate so there
Tucker 3-point shooting has fallen off a cliff lately that is after a scorching start to the year. Even though Tucker will be guarding James he needs to help keep Davis out of the lane when the Rockets are on offense.
For the complaints about Clint Capela’s shortcomings, one thing is sure Capela is a beast on the boards. Averaging a career-high 14.5 rebounds a game Capela is more than holding his own on the boards. Capela is the perfect compliment to Westbrook and Harden and is having a career year.
JaVale McGee is the Lakers starter but splits time with Dwight Howard at the center position. McGee provides the Lakers with what they need from there center position rebounding and rim protection. McGee is playing under 20 minutes a game most nights so this should be advantage Rockets,
Both teams have very good sixth men coming off the bench. Eric Gordon returns a few games ago for the Rockets and is averaging over 17 points a game since his return. Dwight Howard has had a career renaissance since his return to the Lakers. Howard at times has finished the game for the Lakers as his shot-blocking and play above the rim has made him the best backup big in the game.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started the season as a social media joke but his play has improved leaps and bounds the last few weeks. For the Rockets other bench players, it has been mixed results as Mike D’Antoni has decided to sparingly use other players. In the end, this is advantage Lakers as they have more impactful players off the bench.
The Rockets need a win in the worst way. After the loss to the Blazers Westbrook took over the meeting and implored his teammates to play with more passion and energy. Playing at home on primetime after a bad week the Rockets will come out more focused and with intensity. The Lakers will double Harden and get the ball out of his hands but if his teammates can make their open shots the Rockets should win a close one.
Rockets 112 Lakers 108
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