We’ve got a bigtime Western Conference showdown as the Los Angeles Lakers look to bounce back tonight against the Houston Rockets. Both teams are coming off losses and will be looking to bounce back in this matchup.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets
Thursday, August 6th, 2020 – 9:00 PM EDT at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, FL
Lakers Still Figuring Out Rotation
Last night in their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was evident that the Lakers still don't have their rotation set. Eleven players got 10 minutes which will certainly not be the case when the playoffs get underway. The rotation will probably be tightened down to eight guys so right now head coach Frank Vogel is able to experiment with different combinations. I think the fact that the Lakers were playing in a back to back situation was also a factor in the distribution of minutes.
Kyle Kuzma is not one of Vogel's favorites which is why he isn’t in the starting lineup. The reason Vogel doesn't like starting Kuzma is his lack of effort on defense. Vogel is and has always been a defensive coach which is why the Lakers have been in the top 5 in that category all season. Caldwell-Pope is supposed to bring that energy to Vogel's starting five but he isn't really getting the job done on either end of the court at the moment.
That brings me to the real issue the Lakers have and that's perimeter depth. When Vogel looks down his bench, other than Kuzma, he has to choose between Dion Waiters, J.R Smith, Alex Caruso, and Quinn Cook. Then there's the case of Danny Green who can shoot the lights out on any given night but can also disappear at a moment's notice. At the moment, he is 4-20 from behind the three-point line since the restart. The Lakers do not have a lot of shooting and if Green can't consistently knock down shots, that will be a big hole in the offense come playoff time.
Rockets Look Good Since Restart
Despite losing their last game, the Houston Rockets have looked good since the restart. The Blazers' size proved to be too much for Houston as they were outrebounded by a wide margin. That is to be expected when you play small ball but the Rockets also got caught up playing at Portland's pace instead of the other way around. I expect today against the Lakers, they will look to push the pace, especially considering the Lakers are on the second game of a back to back.
The Rockets have no way of slowing down Anthony Davis but on the flip side, the Lakers don't really have anyone to stop James Harden or Russell Westbrook. The obvious weakness for the Lakers is defending smaller perimeter guards. While Harden and Westbrook don't qualify as small, they're closer to being point guards than they are small forwards. I'm pointing that out because other than Danny Green, they don't have anyone on their roster that matches up well with those two. We already mentioned Green's shooting problems, having to guard James Harden will expend a lot of energy
When today's NBA betting lines were released, I was surprised to see this spread. SBR's odds page has this line across the board although the moneyline price has a bit more variance if you're looking to go that route. I think this will be a close game that goes down to the wire and I'd rather take the points here just in case. If the Lakers had not played last night I think we'd get a better number here but their performance left a lot to be desired. LeBron James looked tired yesterday which was strange to see. Anthony Davis only got up 9 total shots which I don't expect to see again tonight. The thing is, I think the advantage the Rockets stars (Harden and Westbrook) have in their respective matchups will be too much to overcome in this specific spot. The lack of three-point shooting is the final reason I like the Rockets here. Los Angeles is 23rd in the league in three-point shooting and that deficit is why I think the Rockets who are playing well have value here.