Thursday night will feature a Western Conference showdown when the Houston Rockets (33-24) travel to the Staples Center to take on the Los Angeles Lakers (28-29). For both of these teams, it is their first game since the All-Star break so both teams should be rested and ready to go.
For the Rockets, they went into the break having won 7 of their last 11 games, but a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in their last game left a bad taste in their mouth throughout the break. Currently sitting in 5thin the Western Conference, the Lakers would like to make a late push for a higher seed as the playoffs approach. For the Lakers, they went into the break having lost 4 of their last 5, including a 117-113 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in their last matchup. Currently in 10thin the West, they need to start making a move quickly if they hope to make the playoffs in a loaded conference. These two will square off on Thursday night with tipoff scheduled for 10:30 pm ET.
In this contest, the Houston Rockets come in as 2-point favorites despite playing on the road. The over/under for this game is set at 233 points.
By The Numbers
On the offensive side, the Houston Rockets are one of the best teams in the league. They currently rank 2nd in the NBA in adjusted offensive rating, which estimates points scored per 100 possessions while taking the opponent’s defense into account, with 116.01 points. For the Lakers, they rank 21st overall, at 108.24 points.
Defensively, it is the Lakers who are the better team. In adjusted defensive rating, they rank 10th in the NBA at 109.24 points while the Houston Rockets come in at 25th overall, with an adjusted defensive rating at 113.43 points.
Houston Looking For Big Win Coming Out Of The Break
For Houston, they have one of the most dynamic players in all of basketball in James Harden.
Individually, Harden has been one of the best offensive players in the league this season. He currently leads the NBA in field goals (and field goal attempts), 3-point field goals, free throws, points, minutes per game, points per game, player efficiency rating, and value over replacement player. On the season, he is averaging 36.6 points per game while shooting 44.1% from the field and 37.4% from behind the arc. He is also averaging 6.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 2.2 steals per night. Needless to say, he is a tough matchup for the opposing team every night.
The problem for the Rockets this season has been getting enough out of their secondary pieces. Behind Harden, the Rockets have been led by Chris Paul (15.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 8 assists, 2.1 steals), Eric Gordon (16.1 points, 2.6 rebounds), and Clint Capela (17.6 points, 12.6 rebounds). Speaking of Capela, all accounts are that he will play in this matchup against Los Angeles. He has been out since January 13 due to surgery to repair ligament damage in his right thumb. For a team that has gotten inconsistent play from its secondary players, this could be a huge boost for the Houston.
Lakers Trying To Make Stretch Run
For Los Angeles, it may be now or never if they want to make the playoffs. Even though they are only 3 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for 8th place in the Western Conference, their play as of late has not been overly inspiring for fans. Good news for Thursday’s matchup is that they are expected to have both Josh Hart and Mike Muscala ready to go for the game Thursday, although Tyson Chandler is questionable and Lonzo Ball still has yet to practice.
Ultimately, whether they make the playoffs or not will likely depend on the play of Lebron James. Having been hampered by a pulled groin this season, Lebron has seemingly been showing the wear and tear of a long career throughout the season. Still, when healthy, he can be one of the best in the game. On the season, Lebron is averaging 26.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Like Harden with the Rockets, though, a lot of the success of the Lakers depends on what they can get from their secondary pieces.
Aside from Lebron, the leaders for the Lakers this season have been Kyle Kuzma (19.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists), JaVale McGee (11.1 points, 6.9 rebounds) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (10.3 points, 2.8 rebounds).
Lakers Can’t Keep Up With Rockets’ Offense
For me, both teams get a boost in this game with the returns of Josh Hart and Clint Capela, but ultimately, I think it is Capela that will have more of an impact. The Rockets have desperately needed secondary options, and Kenneth Faried has not necessarily been the answer for that in the interior. With Capela, Chris Paul and Eric Gordon to complement James Harden, I think they are going to be able to attack Lebron and the Lakers, and I am just not sure that the Lakers will be able to keep up offensively. Especially since they are only laying 2 points, my money is on the Rockets in this one.