NBA Preview: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers

Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers
Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 10:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Staples Center – Los Angeles, California
Opening Line: LA Lakers -2 1/2
Current Line: LA Lakers -2 1/2
Opening Total: 204
Current Total: 204
Opening Money Line: Lakers -140 / Rockets +120
Current Money Line: Lakers -145 / Rockets +125

The Lakers must beat the Rockets to clinch a playoff spot.

The Lakers must beat the Rockets to clinch a playoff spot.

The Los Angeles Lakers were projected by many at the beginning of the season to be a super team that might even challenge for the best team of all time, after trading for center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash. It hasn’t exactly worked out like that as injuries to key players have decimated the Lakers this year, including Kobe Bryant who tore his Achilles’ tendon last Friday. Bryant will miss 6-9 months after undergoing surgery Saturday.

However, the 44-37 Los Angeles Lakers still control their own destiny for the playoffs. The Lakers host the 45-36 Houston Rockets Wednesday night. The Lakers will make the playoffs with a win or a loss by the Utah Jazz at the Memphis Grizzlies earlier in the evening. If Utah wins and the Lakers lose then the Jazz will clinch the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs which start Saturday. If the Lakers win they will clinch the #7 seed in the West. LA will be the 8 seed if they lose to Houston and Utah loses as well.

Houston is a game behind the Golden State Warriors for the #6 seed in the Western Conference, and both teams have already clinched playoff spots. If Houston beats Los Angeles and Golden State loses at the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night then the Rockets will move up to the #6 spot via the tiebreaker and play the #3 Denver Nuggets in the first round. If Houston loses to the Lakers, then the Rockets would drop to the #8 spot and play the #1 seed Oklahoma City Thunder. Houston will be the #7 seed if the Rockets and Warriors both win. The #7 seed will play the #2 San Antonio Spurs.

The Rockets have sputtered down the stretch going 2-3 in their last 5 games after a 4 game winning streak. Houston lost at the Phoenix Suns 119-112 Monday night. The Lakers have won 4 straight games and are 8-2 in their last 10 games. LA took a gutsy 91-86 win at home Sunday over the Spurs. It was the first game for the Lakers since Kobe’s injury.

 

Houston leads the series 2-1 against the Lakers this season. The Lakers won 119-108 at home November 18. The Rockets won 2 home games  107-105 December 4 and 125-112 January 8. Both Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard missed the last game with injuries.

Houston is coached by Kevin McHale. Houston is 41-39-1 ATS and the total is 41-40 this season.  The Rockets are outscoring teams 106-103 this season. The Rockets lead the league in scoring but are #28 in points allowed. The Rockets are shooting 46.1% from the field and 36.8% from 3 point range. Houston is #8 in the league in both categories. The Rockets make 75.4% of their free throws. Houston averages 43.4 rebounds and gives up 41.5 per game. The Rockets are in the top 10 in both categories. Houston opponents  are shooting 45.6% from the field and 36.8% from 3 point range. The Rockets average 23.2 assists, 8.3 steals, 4.4 blocks, and 15.9 turnovers per game.

Shooting guard James Harden averages 25.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Harden is 5th in the league in scoring, behind Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. He is probable with a knee injury. Small forward Chandler Parsons averages 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1 steal a game. Point guard Jeremy Lin averages 13.4 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Shooting guard Carlos Delfino averages 10.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal a game. Center Omer Asik averages 10.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. Francisco Garcia, Donatas Motiejunas, Greg Smith, Thomas Robinson, and Terrance Jones make up the rest of the rotation.

The Lakers are coached by Mike D’Antoni. LA is 33-46-2 ATS and the total is 42-38-1 this season. LA is outscoring teams 102-101 this season. The Lakers are #6 in scoring but #24 in points allowed. Los Angeles is shooting 45.9% from the field and 35.6% from 3 point range. The Lakers are #10 in field goal percentage.  LA is last in the league in free throw shooting at 69.2% from the line. The Lakers average 44.7 rebounds per game, and give up 42.6 per game. Los Angeles is #4 in rebounding. Laker opponents are shooting 45.3% from the field and 35.9% from 3 point range. The Lakers average 22.1 assists, 7.1 steals, 5.2 blocks, and 14.7 turnovers per game.

Guard Kobe Bryant averaged 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He is third in the league in scoring. Center Dwight Howard averages 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals, and 2.4 blocks per game. He leads the league in rebounds. Forward Pau Gasol averages 13.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game. Small forward Metta World Peace returned to the line-up last week less than 2 weeks after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus. He  was originally expected to be out until at least early May. World Peace is averaging 12.5 points, 5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Point guard Steve Nash is expected to miss his seventh game in a row with a hip injury. Nash averages 12.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark, Jodie Meeks, and Steve Blake make up the rest of the rotation. Devin Ebanks is questionable with a lung injury. Center Jordan Hill is out for the season with a hip injury.

The Rockets are 7-2 ATS in the last 9 against the Lakers. Eight of the last none in the series have gone over the total.

The Lakers shot just 36.5% from the field Sunday against the Spurs. LA won because the Spurs were even worse. The Lakers must do a lot better than that  against the high octane Rockets. Without Bryant and Nash, Los Angeles has to slow the game down and get it to Gasol and Howard down low. Houston is relatively healthy as Parsons and Delfino return from injuries. If the Lakers can control the tempo, they win. If this games turns into a track meet, they stand a chance to get blown off the  court.

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