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It is March 20, 2012 and the (28-17) Los Angeles Lakers are in H-town to face the (24-22) Houston Rockets. The Lakers seek to bounce back from a terrible performance at home against Utah, losing 103-99. The Lakers came out flat with no energy, suffered through a bad shooting night by Kobe Bryant (3-for-20), had an amazing 27-turn over’s and allowed the Jazz to shoot 47-percent from the field.

The loss wasted Andrew Bynum’s 33-point, 11-rebound, 1-assist, 1-steal and 2-blocked shot’s performance. Andrew is dominating in the post, demanding an immediate double-team. Bynum has averaged 28-points and 15-rebounds in the last five games.

The Lakers will pick up Bynum’s $16.1 million option for next season. Sounds like the Lakers are set to present their 24-year old all-star center with a long-term contract. The Lakers have until June 30; Bynum will be a free agent after the 2012-2013 season ironically at the same time that Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is set to become a free agent, again.

The Lakers offense has improved, but it is at the expense of the defense. The Lakers need to re-commit to defensive side of the game. L.A. has surrendered 100 points in three of their last four games. Mike Brown and staff is one that prides itself on defense and has definitely stressed the exact same message in team meetings, video sessions and practice.

The Lakers lead the season series (1-0, after a 108-99 win on 1/3/12 at the Staples Center); have taken each of the last three years season series. The game on 1/3 was the game that Andrew Bynum posted his first career 20-point 20-rebound game, the first game of this season that the Lakers scored over 100 points.

The Lakers are 8-2 in their last 10 games overall. The Lakers are 7-3 in their last 10 road games against the Rockets, 9-5 all-time at the Toyota Center in Bayou City. The Lakers lost their last game in Screwston a.k.a. the city of syrup 109-99 in the 2010-2011 season.

The Houston Rockets have struggled mightily this season; the obvious culprits have been the lack of a superstar and injuries. The Rockets, like the Lakers, have had trouble holding onto leads. Six teams have come back from a 10-point deficit of better against the Rockets.

Tonight’s game is a matchup of the third and eighth seed if the playoffs started today. The Western Conference playoffs are as tight as the Tower of Power horn section. The Lakers are 9-14 on the road seeking to place their road win total in double digits. Look for Kobe Bryant leading his team with a bounce back performance. Look for the Lakers to play to their strengths and establish Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the post. The Rockets will bring a quick double-team which means that the Lakers ball movement and player movement has to be at a high level.

To be successful the Lakers have to commit to the defense and perform better on that side of the court. The Rockets are a scrappy team that will put up a tremendous fight; the Lakers need to be prepared to match the intensity of their opponent.

It is imperative that the Lakers play with energy, take care of the ball, defend, own the boards and limit the Rockets to one shot per possession. The Rockets can score and rank 9th overall in the league at 97.7 points per game average. The Rockets are without their starting backcourt, but Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee are solid players. Luis Scola and Chase Budinger can light up the scoreboard. It will be advantageous for the Lakers to make sure that they do not allow one of the Rockets reserves to become a star tonight.

Starters
Lakers: S. Blake, K. Bryant, M. Peace, P. Gasol, A. Bynum
Rockets: G. Dragic, C. Lee, C. Parsons, L. Scola, S. Dalembert

Tip-off: 5:00 PM PST

Television

  • Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz)
  • Houston: FS Houston (Bill Worrell & Clyde Drexler)

Radio

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Houston: 610 AM (Adam Wexler)

Injuries

Lakers:

  • Steve Blake (Costochaondral fracture) Probable
  • Kobe Bryant (Nasal Fracture) Probable
  • Darius Morris (Sprained Left Wrist) Day-to-Day

Rockets:

  • Kyle Lowry (Bacterial Infection) Day-to-Day
  • Kevin Martin (Strained Shoulder) Day-to-Day