Matchup: Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets
Records: Lakers (17-10), Rockets (12-14)
Where to Watch
Date: Friday, Dec. 14
Time: 6:30 AM IST
TV: Sony Ten1
Location: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
When the Rockets and Lakers previously faced-off during the first week of the regular season, Houston was viewed as a contending team with two All-Stars caliber players (James Harden, Chris Paul) whereas LeBron James-led team were expected to be a fifth to eighth seeded Playoff team.
Through 25-something games, neither of these things have happened. While the Rockets are struggling at the bottom of the Western Conference, at the 14th spot, the Lakers are positioned at 5th and just one game out of the top seed in the Conference.
Let's start with the visiting Lakers. Surprisingly, it's been their defense that has been helping them win games as their offense still seems to be finding its step and rhythm. Currently ranked as the 8th-best defense, the effort by the team on the end has increased manifold (4th-best defense in this span) upon the acquisition of veteran center Tyson Chandler.
The squad has been consistently racking up wins despite missing Rajon Rondo for a better half of the past month. In fact, the Lakers have bounced back magnificently after stumbling to a slow 4-6 start and LeBron James' better play is a huge part of that. In wins, the King points per game averages see an increase of 4.0 points and his shooting percentage jumps to 54.7% from 47.7%.
In this game, the Lakers' first of a four-game road trip, the team would be missing Brandon Ingram as well.
While things have been looking up since November for the Lakers, it's been all downhill for the Rockets, last year's Conference Finalists. Initially, Harden was nursing a hamstring for a three games and Chris Paul has missed five games in total so far, and the team has gone a miserable 1-7 in those eight games.
Unfortunately that's not been their only problem.
Depth and defense have been two of the biggest issues the team has had to deal with, and so far they have not been able to rectify either. After ranking seventh in defensive rating last season (105.6), the team is woefully ranking 27th (112.2) for the season so far. Despite having one of the best defensive centers in the game - Clint Capela, Houston are dead-last in defensive rebounding - 30.0, a stat they were positioned at 10th last season.
With injuries to multiple players on their starting line-up, they have been forced to start Eric Gordon which has handicapped their bench. Even with Gordon coming off the bench in 14 of his 23 games played, their reserves are still struggling to score, ranking 30th and last in points per game - 28.5.
Last Time They Played
Date: Oct. 21, 2018
Score: Rockets 124, Lakers 115
Rockets: James Harden - 36 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block on 52.6% shooting
Lakers: Rajon Rondo - 13 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals on 75% shooting