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Preview: Lakers vs. Rockets

It turns out that the season is still not miserable enough for the Lakers (15-18). Yesterday, the team reported that Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill will be out of commission for several days to to their various injuries. This is coming with the Lakers looking at their toughest stretch of their schedule facing the Spurs, Thunder and Heat in the days ahead. Not to mention that they are riding a 3-game losing streak and trying to keep themselves within arm's length of the 8th seed Nuggets in the west.

But it's still early in January and, believe or not, there's still time for the Lakers to pick themselves up. Tonight would be a good time to do just that.

The Lakers are starting their Texas Two-Step trip against the Houston Rockets (20-14) before heading 200 miles west to San Antonio to take on the Spurs tomorrow night. After starting the season playing like a team trying to find their way, the Rockets have turned a page by winning 11 of their last 14 games since snapping a 3-game snide against the Wizards. A lot of that had to do with James Harden and Omer Asik.

Harden is averaging 26.4 points while shooting 44.9% from the field for the year. In their last 10 games, he's upped those stats to 29.5 and 48.9% per game. Interestingly enough, Harden has only averaged 17.5 points on a dismal 27% shooting in the 2 games against the Lakers this season. That's because both Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace has done a solid job defensively against him. But look for Harden to come out aggressive tonight.

Asik is a non-factor against the purple and gold so far. But with both Howard and Gasol out, he just might have his best game of the season tonight. Like Harden, the 7-footer from Turkey has stepped up his game in scoring, rebounding and on defense. However, we'll see if he can control his personal fouls to stay in the game long enough to be a nuisance for the Lakers. Just because he won't be facing any notable competition in the post doesn't mean he's safe from Kobe's (especially with Chandler Parsons out) attacks at the rim or any one of Steve Nash's sweet dishes to an open man under the basket.

Expect Bryant and Nash to play a ton of minutes tonight. At this point in the season, rest for those tired old legs is no longer an option. The Lakers simply need to win more than anything else just to give themselves a chance at making the playoffs. That is going to be an undertaking for them with or without their bigs from this point on. Laker fans can only hope that the team take this latest situation an opportunity to shine instead of another reason to doubt.

Nash needs 5 assists tonight to reach a 10,000 career assist milestone.

Matchup of the Game

Lakers vs. Rockets: With very little support on both ends in the post, the Lakers will be challenged as a team to stop the Rockets from attacking at will while getting enough outside shots to go in to win the game. Kobe is the Lakers' best hope offensively but that doesn't mean he needs to take all of the shots. But that solely depends on the rest of the team contributing on the scoreboard and working hard on the defensiv end.

Keys to the Game

> Play as a Team: How the Lakers follow this mantra is going to be monumental for them tonight and in the coming days, especially. The Lakers will have to dig deeper than before across the board together if they want to get a win. That means doing the fundamentals, hustle on the floor, getting those 50/50 balls, and above all, play hard the entire game.

> Steve Nash: No doubt the offense will run through Kobe tonight. But look for Nash to be extra aggressive on offense and be more focused on keeping the entire team involved on that end of the floor.

> Bench: Metta will move back into the starting lineup. That leaves Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison as leaders of the 2nd unit to contribute. If Jamison wants to be more a part of the team, then he can't let this chance to prove himself to slip through his fingers. As far as Meeks goes, he needs to hit those open shots and continue to work hard on defense.

Watch Out For

ANTAWN JAMISON: After riding the pine for several games, it's probably a good bet Jamison will answer the bell tonight.

JEREMY LIN: He stunk it up against the Lakers in the last 2 meeting getting 4.5 points and shooting 23.5% per game, but don't think that will continue tonight. In the last 10 games, Lin is averaging 14.2 points and 7.1 assists per outing. In other words, he has some making up to do.

Game Info

Tonight @ Houston Rockets
Tip-off: 5:00 p.m.(PST)
Toyota Center
TV: TWC SportsNet (Southern California)
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW

Injury Notes

LAKERS: Steve Blake (abdomen – out until late January), Pau Gasol (concussion), Jordan Hill (right hip) and Dwight Howard (right shoulder) are all out.

ROCKETS: Chandler Parsons (sick) and Royce White (suspended) are both out.

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Preview: Lakers vs. Rockets

Disappointing is the best description for the season so far for the Lakers (8-9), and their 1-4 record away from Staples Center isn't providing much hope that the month of December will have a yuletide feeling in the air for Laker fans.

That's because the rest of December holds 13 games, including tonight, but only 3 of those are happening in Los Angeles.

The Lakers allowed 40 points in the 4th quarter against the previously 5-10 Orlando Magic team last Sunday. A very disheartening loss considering the talent level of their opponent and playing at home coming off of their most impressive shooting display of the year versus the Denver Nuggets.

Surely enough, Pau Gasol was blamed. Dwight Howard's free-throw shooting became the focus. And then it ended with the players giving their ritual post-game interview script regarding effort, defense, patience, etcetera, etcetera.

The Lakers can give all the excuses they want. But one thing is certain, only they alone can right this ship.

Hopefully, they see the 10 road games in front of them starting against the Houston Rockets (8-8) tonight as an opportunity to prove to themselves that they are a far better team than what we're all seeing since day one with or without Steve Nash…and Pau.

Gasol has been ruled out of at least tonight's contest for knee tendinitis. It's a good move since that type of problem won't go away without lots of rest. Maybe a few extra time off will revitalize Pau and his absence force the team to step up.

The Lakers defeated the Rockets at home earlier, 119-108. And if that game is any hint of what's to come tonight, the purple and gold better come prepared.

The 1st quarter featured 3 ties and 14 lead changes before Kobe Bryant's tripe-double fueled the Lakers the rest of the way.

James Harden scored 20 points but shot 38.9% from the field. Both Kobe and Metta World Peace did a solid job in contesting his shots while forcing him to drive into traffic inside early. That's going to be recipe for success again tonight.

However, they can't allow Chandler Parsons to score anywhere near the 24 points he put up considering that Jeremy Lin will probably not have another 5-point, 2-of-9 shooting effort tonight.

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Preview: Lakers vs. Rockets


(NBAE/Getty Images)

The Lakers (13-5) are looking into the wrong kind of streak trying to avoid their 4th loss in as many games instead of looking for their 4th consecutive victory. Tonight, they’ll finish their back-to-back road games against one of the worst teams in the league, the Houston Rockets (5-12). But lately, it doesn’t matter who the 2-time defending champs are up against because they’ve been their worst enemy so far.

Right now, the only thing the Lakers have been consistent at is playing poorly. Offensively, there’s no cohesion and very little trust in the Triangle offense. On defense, not only can’t they keep the opposing point guard from penetrating but they also can’t seem to want to challenge any layups coming in. Then, there lies their problems on the boards. Even some of the poorer teams in rebounding are finding it easy to dominate the Lakers on the glass regardless of both Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom being on the floor at the same time.

Well, the Lakers have no time to feel sorry for themselves. They’ll be facing a team that’s proven time and time again that they can give the purple and gold more than they can handle with or without their superstar giant of a center, Yao Ming. The Rockets are all about persistence and heart from the first all the way to the #12 spot.

But can the Lakers finally rally together to start building something positive starting with a much needed win in Houston? To put it simply, they better!

It’s now December and the schedule for the Lakers is about to turn serious sooner rather than later. Including tonight, 10 of their next 15 games are road games that will make stops in Chicago, Indiana, New Orleans and San Antonio. Need I mention their Christmas Day date with Miami?

If the Lakers lose a significant amount of games this month, it could very well end up costing them the top see in the west come playoff time. And yes, games they lose against mediocre teams count as much as their losses against the elite teams at the end of the season.

But, they have two things going in their favor in their matchup against the Rockets tonight. Starting point guard Aaron Brooks is still out with a severly sprained ankle, and giant-among-giants Ming will miss his 13th game of the season. However, that doesn’t mean the Lakers are out of the woods.

They still have to worry about efficient-shooter Kevin Martin (leads Rockets with 22.2 PPG), rebounding machine Luis Scola (averages 9.1 RPG) and the rest of the Rockets team that seem to bring their A game against the Lakers.

The last time these two teams met on Opening Night at Staples Center, the Lakers had to rally back from a 15-point deficit to win the game by 2 points. Hopefully, they can put aside enough of their shortcomings to end this road trip with something good so they can build upon it.

The Rockets are 3-4 at home and have lost 6 of their last 10 games while the Lakers are 5-2 on the road and have won 9 of their last 13 games against teams in the west.

GO LAKERS!!!

TP&G Blog’s Matchup of the Game

Lamar Odom vs. Luis Scola: Two guys that can attack the rim will go right at one another, but Odom has the advantage in versatility, foot-speed, and in scoring. Let’s see if Lamar gets going tonight.

Keys for the Lakers

Offense

1. Run the Triangle: ‘Nuf said.
2. Movement Without the Ball: The Laker offense have been standing around watching Kobe do his work. As a result, their feet gets heavier and heavier each quarter making them a step slower in everything.
3. Jump Early: The Lakers cannot start the game as if they’re waiting for someone to tell them to start playing. The Rockets have the 4th worse defense in the entire league. Surely, the Lakers can do a ton of damage against them. Right?

Defense

1. Focus and Passion: Two crucial elements that have been missing since I can’t even remember. The Lakers need to find them from the get-go against the 6th highest-scoring offense (103.6 PPG).
2. Dominate the Glass: They can’t relax around the boards tonight. Eventhough they’re undersized, Houston is 5th in rebounds.
3. Interior Defense: There’s a better chance for the Lakers to keep the opposing guards from converting their layups than it is trying to stop them from getting into the lane. So, Pau and Lamar have got to make sure they contest those easy buckets.

Game Info

Tip-off is at 5:30 p.m. (PST).  TV: KCAL-9 (Los Angeles)  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

Preview: Lakers vs. Rockets

Los Angeles Lakers Ron Artest defends against Houston Rockets Trevor Ariza at Toyota Center in Houston

A full day after their most glaring loss of the season, the Lakers (53-19) are back in Texas to face the crumbling Houston Rockets (36-35) this time in their third stop of their final big road swing of the year to hopefully erase that oh so bitter taste of what happened to them in Oklahoma City. Just when you think the Lakers are coming out of their coma, they get pulled back in with an unexpected lackluster effort — the very thing they’ve been working to rid off for good — against the Thunder Friday night.

With all intensive purposes, that game was a little too tough for any basketball fan, let alone Laker fans to watch. I can only hope we don’t see anything close to that tonight or any time soon.

Tonight, they’ll face another Western Conference foe but the Rockets are looking like there isn’t hope for them to even have a chance to push the Lakers to another decisive Game 7 in the playoffs once again this year. In fact, Houston is facing their fourth loss in a row against the Lakers which is something that hasn’t happened to them in 2 1/2 seasons.

But with all intensive purposes, I want the Lakers to show absolutely zero remorse for the Rockets. In fact, the Lakers should hand Houston their worst loss of the season. We all know this team need to have a killer instinct. Not having one probably was the major reason for the 16-point routing last night. Now is the perfect time to grow one.

The Rockets are too familiar with injuries this season and won’t have newly-acquired Kevin Martin (sore left shoulder), Jared Jeffries (strained left achilles), and Jordan Hill (sprained left knee). But they still have some of the players that have proven to be headaches for the Lakers like Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, and our old buddy Trevor Ariza. So there are certainly reasons for the defending champs to be aware of heading into this game.

The keys for the Lakers are: defense, box out, dominate offensively, and most importantly PLAY THE DARN GAME! They have to cement it in their minds that teams in this league will not go away automatically. In fact, teams love the challenge of playing the Lakers because they have a lot less of a burden of winning the game, and they’re not the ones trying to repeat as a champion.

Hopefully, the loss against the Thunder won’t prove to be an expensive reminder that yesterday’s win isn’t today’s glory.

Tip-off is at 5:30.  TV: KCAL  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

Preview: Lakers vs. Rockets

Los Angeles Lakers Ron Artest defends against Houston Rockets Trevor Ariza at Toyota Center in Houston

A full day after their most glaring loss of the season, the Lakers (53-19) are back in Texas to face the crumbling Houston Rockets (36-35) this time in their third stop of their final big road swing of the year to hopefully erase that oh so bitter taste of what happened to them in Oklahoma City. Just when you think the Lakers are coming out of their coma, they get pulled back in with an unexpected lackluster effort — the very thing they’ve been working to rid off for good — against the Thunder Friday night.

With all intensive purposes, that game was a little too tough for any basketball fan, let alone Laker fans to watch. I can only hope we don’t see anything close to that tonight or any time soon.

Tonight, they’ll face another Western Conference foe but the Rockets are looking like there isn’t hope for them to even have a chance to push the Lakers to another decisive Game 7 in the playoffs once again this year. In fact, Houston is facing their fourth loss in a row against the Lakers which is something that hasn’t happened to them in 2 1/2 seasons.

But with all intensive purposes, I want the Lakers to show absolutely zero remorse for the Rockets. In fact, the Lakers should hand Houston their worst loss of the season. We all know this team need to have a killer instinct. Not having one probably was the major reason for the 16-point routing last night. Now is the perfect time to grow one.

The Rockets are too familiar with injuries this season and won’t have newly-acquired Kevin Martin (sore left shoulder), Jared Jeffries (strained left achilles), and Jordan Hill (sprained left knee). But they still have some of the players that have proven to be headaches for the Lakers like Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, and our old buddy Trevor Ariza. So there are certainly reasons for the defending champs to be aware of heading into this game.

The keys for the Lakers are: defense, box out, dominate offensively, and most importantly PLAY THE DARN GAME! They have to cement it in their minds that teams in this league will not go away automatically. In fact, teams love the challenge of playing the Lakers because they have a lot less of a burden of winning the game, and they’re not the ones trying to repeat as a champion.

Hopefully, the loss against the Thunder won’t prove to be an expensive reminder that yesterday’s win isn’t today’s glory.

Tip-off is at 5:30.  TV: KCAL  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

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