Series Preview: Lakers vs. Rockets
The NBA bubble has provided fans with some wild, entertaining games so far through one round of the playoffs. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets are set to kick off their second round playoff series against each other on Friday, and that trend should likely continue. This matchup brings a lot of excitement, but also some questions since we’ve seen the Rockets playing at a different level than they have in the regular season. The bubble has been changing the dynamic of how teams play and is essentially changing the game across the league.
This series could be won by either team. Let’s take a look at each team’s road to this point in the playoffs thus far. The Lakers took on Damian Lillard and the eighth seeded Portland Trailblazers in the opening round. Portland beat the Lakers in the first game of the series which sparked a lot of questions in people’s minds whether or not the Lakers should be considered title contenders. These questions were quickly answered after the Lakers proceeded to win the next four games and take the series with ease. LeBron James entered playoff mode and had the Lakers offense steam rolling. They’re averaging a combined 123.3 points per game in the last four games.
The Rockets are known for their offensive firepower. However, one of the biggest surprises in the bubble has been Houston’s attitude on the defensive end of the court. James Harden is recognized across the league for his elite offensive ability. His defense is what has always been doubted. So it was impressive to see Harden get the series-winning block against the Thunder after a poor performance offensively. Led by Harden, the Rockets have always been a dominant regular season team. As Harden is in the conversation of being the top player in the league, adding some team playoff success to his resume will help his case tremendously. Taking down James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers would be a great start.
Let’s take a look at what each team needs to do to stay alive in their title hunt.
Keys for the Lakers
The Lakers simply need to have the same strategy and game plan in which they had with Lillard and the Trailblazers. They need to contain Harden and force him off of the perimeter. The Lakers were able to hold Lillard to only 24 points per game, which may seem like a lot, but Lillard is capable of much more. He was putting up nearly 40 points a night, willing his team to victory, game after game in the bubble. Which is why it was especially impressive for the Lakers to discombulate some of his offensive production. They’ll need to replicate that with Harden.
Keys for the Rockets
This matchup doesn’t favor them because of their lack of size. Houston’s tallest starter stands at 6-foot-7 in Robert Covington. He will guard James, which leaves PJ Tucker to guard Davis. This is a huge mismatch. Davis is arguably the best center in the league and when he sees a 6-foot-5 Tucker guarding him, it’s game over. The Rockets will have to rely on their offensive firepower and at the same time try to make other Lakers score by forcing the ball out of Davis and James’ hands.
Final Prediction: Lakers in 6 games
When taking a first glance at this matchup, it’s easy to assume that the Lakers could easily win the series in four games. It seems as if the Lakers should take care of business in this one, but we saw them slip and lose Game 1 to the Trailblazers. The Rockets are a better team than the Trailblazers and should be able to put pressure on the Lakers. Harden should have more offensive production in this series than he did at the end of the previous one against the Thunder. In the end, this series will feature high-scoring games. But James, Davis and the Lakers’ size will cause problems for the Rockets and will allow the Lakers to take this in 6 games if not 5.
Austin Groft is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.