The (3-3) Los Angeles Lakers are at the Staples Center to host the (2-2) Houston Rockets. The purple and gold are seeking to bounce back from a frustrating road loss and take their record above the .500 mark.
Several people have focused on Kobe Bryant’s 6-28 shooting performance, questioned his shot selection and number of shots, but the team as a whole shot 39.8% from the field. Kobe is a warrior who appears to play through anything; the best thing is that Bryant plays his game without excuses. There is no shame in splitting two games in 48 hours. The Lakers will return to Denver in February to exact some revenge.
Kobe Bryant passed the captain, Kareem Abdul-Jabber, to become the youngest player to reach 28,000 points in his career. The next hurdle for the Black Mamba to clear in his assault on the NBA All-Time Points leaders; Shaquille O’Neal at 28,596.
Kobe can achieve the feat by scoring 10 points per game for the rest of the season, however at his season average of 24 points per game that mark will fall in late February against the Suns, Trailblazers or Mavericks.
The Lakers have won the last three season series against the Rockets (9-2). L.A. is 8-2 in their last 10 games versus Houston. The Lakers are 7-3 in their last 10 road games against the Rockets and 9-5 all-time at the Toyota Center. Look for Kobe Bryant to bounce back from a forgettable performance on the first day of 2012, Bryant has a career average of 26.8 points against the Rockets.
The Rockets are extremely talented, young and athletic. Houston is scrappy team that seems to raise their level of play against the Lakers. Thanks to the failed Chris Paul trade, Pau Gasol continues to work in a Lakers uniform. Houston has been a center-starved team since Yao Ming’s retirement; however, the acquisition of Samuel Dalembert has provided the Rockets with a shot blocking presence in the paint.
Houston has many talented offensive players in both the back & frontcourt. In a star driven league, the Rockets are missing a superstar player and a solid defense.
Point guard Kyle Lowery has been outstanding; Luis Scola and Kevin Martin continue to be viable weapons. The Lakers have to stop the dribble penetration of both Kyle Lowry & Goran Dragic, do a solid job defending the pick-and-role-play, control the tempo, get back in transition and quickly rotate out to open shooters.
The Lakers need to start their offense on the inside and establish both Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol in the post. Despite the presence of Samuel Dalembert, the Rockets do not have the size to slow down the Laker bigs. Bynum & Gasol need to be aggressive and dominate inside. The Lakers frontline should score with ease and dominate with several points in the paint.
The Lakers need to play with a high energy level, defend, win the rebounding battle, limit the Rockets to one shot per possession and challenge every shot. The Lakers need to do a better job of ball movement and player movement to find high percentage shots. The Lakers also need to do a better job of knocking down shots.
The Lakers need to continue to develop their young players to reap the rewards down the road. The Lakers will need their young players and their young legs now more than ever. The Rockets rank 12th in points per game (97), 19th in Rebounds (41.3), 4th in Assists (23), and 17th points allowed (96.5). Perhaps this is a game for Devin Ebanks, Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris to receive playing time.
Lakers: D. Fisher, K. Bryant, M. Barnes, P. Gasol, A. Bynum
Rockets: K. Lowry, K. Martin, C. Budinger, L. Scola, J. Hill
Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST
- Los Angeles: FS West (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz)
- Houston: Fox Sports Houston (Bill Worrell & Clyde Drexler)
- Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
- Houston: 610 AM (Craig Ackerman)
- Derrick Caracter (Torn Lateral Meniscus, Left Knee) Out
- Kobe Bryant (Torn Lunotriquetral Ligament, Right Wrist) Day-to-Day
- Pau Gasol (Sprained Right Shoulder) Day-to-Day
- Josh McRoberts (Sprained Left Thumb & Left Big Toe) Day-to-Day
- Matt Barnes (Bursitis, Left Hip) Day-to-Day