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James Harden

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Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

April 8,2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TNT
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Coming off a very poor performance vs. the Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers will attempt to even up the season series vs. the Houston Rockets.

Despite another loss, C/PF Jordan Hill continue to show his worthiness to stay on the Lakers roster following season. A player who provides the “Dennis Rodman” effect without all the crazy antics, Hill scored 22 points and 9 rebounds vs Clippers, and has averaged a career high 9.2 PPG and 7.3 RPG this season.

Unfortunately for fans who purchased tickets to boo former Lakers center Dwight Howard tonight, he will not be available tonight, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

Howard’s service will most likely not be necessary since C Omer Asik can fill in nicely and the Lakers simply do not possess enough talent to defeat the Rockets.

SG James Harden has enjoyed life as an NBA starter after the Rockets acquired him from the Oklahoma City Thunder right before the 2012-2013 season, becoming the best NBA Shooting Guard this season due to the unavailability of superstar SG Kobe Bryant. Harden has averaged 25.4 PPG and 5.8 APG this season, hoping to carry the Rockets far into the playoffs in a few weeks.

Projected Starters

PG - Jeremy Lin Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Rockets]
SG - James Harden / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Rockets]
SF - Chandler Parsons Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Rockets]
PF - Terrence Jones / Ryan Kelly [Advantage: Even]
C - Omer Asik Jordan Hill [Advantage: Rockets]

Notable Bench Players

Rockets: G Jordan Hamilton, F Omri Casspi, G Francisco Garcia, Greg Smith,

Lakers:  C Robert Sacre, F Wesley Johnson, PG Steve Nash, PG Jordan Farmar

Bench Advantage: Rockets

Injury List

Rockets: Out-PG Patrick Beverley, Out-C Dwight HowardQuestionable-F Greg Smith

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-G Kent Bazemore, Out-C Chris Kaman

Keys for Lakers Victory

Hit Open Shots: Without any defensive skills, talent, or chemistry with multiple injuries, the Lakers need to like they did when they scored 51 points on the New York Knicks a few weeks ago. SG Jodie Meeks, who has progressed extremely well this season, will be heavily relied upon to fulfill that task, along with F Ryan Kelly, and F/G Nick Young.

Bottom Line

Since the Rockets currently have the 4th seed with a few games remaining, this game means significantly more for the Rockets and Lakers. Therefore, getting off to a quick start for the Lakers seems very unlikely. The only entertaining value from the Laker’s fan’s point of view will be the play of PG Steve Nash who ac tually has played well in limited role and might consider retirement following this season.

Prediction

Rockets: 117-110

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Photo courtesy of Bill Baptist, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Bill Baptist, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Bill Baptist, Getty Images

January 8, 2014 — 5:00PM (PST)
Toyota Center, Houston, TX
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (14-21) come into tonight’s rematch vs. center Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets (22-13) with no momentum, especially after losing last night’s game vs. the Dallas Mavericks, 110-97. Their defense was not much better last night, allowing the Mavericks to shoot over 50% from the field goal in three of the four quarters

To make matters worse, G/F Nick Young struggled last night dealing with a back issue and his availability for tonight’s game is uncertain. If Young cannot play tonight, the Lakers are left with only eight healthy players available for tonight’s game.

The Lakers have been running their offense throught PG Kendall Marshall, and C/F Pau GasolMarshall did not have as good of a game last night as he did during his first 2 starts, scoring 18 points but only dishing out 6 assists and committing 6 turnovers. Gasol also struggled for the first time since he had a relapse from his sinus infection, scoring only 15 points on 5-14 shooting and grabbing 13 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets come into tonight’s match-up looking to seek revenge from their last match-up when Lakers PG Steve Blake hit the game-winning 3 pt. shot. C Dwight Howard has had another all-star season from the Center position, averaging 17.4 PPG, 12.9 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. Howard still has offensive deficiencies at times, but has shown great defensive prowess for the Rockets this season, something the Lakers dearly miss. Another all-star, SG James Harden has definitely enjoyed his tenure for the Rockets, averaging 24.4 PPG while dishing out 5.2 RPG. Harden’s craftiness while attacking the basket will once again cause the Lakers a lot of problems tonight.

Projected Starters

PG - Jeremy Lin Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Rockets]

SG - James Harden / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Rockets]

SF - Chandler Parsons Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Rockets]

PF - Terrence Jones Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

C - Dwight Howard Robert Sacre [Advantage: Rockets]

Notable Bench Players

Rockets: PG Aaron Brooks, F Omri Casspi, G Francisco Garcia, Greg Smith 

Lakers:  G/F Nick Young, F Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Rockets: Out-C Omer Asik, Out-PG Patrick Beverley, Questionable-SF Chandler Parsons, Questionable-F Greg Smith

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Probable-G/F Nick Young

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense: The Lakers’ defense did not fare much better vs. Mavericks, allowing 110 points and allowing them to get easy shots up. Their defense will be exposed again, especially since both guards, Harden and PG Jeremy Lin, love driving to the basket and creating shots for themselves and their teammates. Gasol should not have too much trouble guarding Howard one-on-one, but the Lakers will be vulnerable guarding the other 4 players on the floor.

Shoot the Ball Well: Is taking a lot of three-point shots a recipe for a championship? Absolutely not. However, it could be the only recipe available for the Lakers to give themselves a shot to win tonight’s game. When the Lakers defeated the Rockets in their last matchup, the Lakers made 45.7% of their three-point shots. Since the Lakers have been devastated by numerous amounts of injury, players like SG Jodie Meeks have to shoot the ball extremely well tonight with confidence for the Lakers to even have a chance at the end to steal the game from the Rockets.

Bottom Line

Hopefully the Lakers will play as inspired tonight as they did during their last meeting vs. Rockets. However, the Lakers roster looks much different now, with all of their point guards who started off the season on the roster now out for the foreseeable future. With the Lakers’ ship sinking quickly the way it is, Laker Nation can only hope for the Lakers to keep themselves respectable vs. Rockets throughout tonight’s game.

Prediction

Rockets: 98-85

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Former number two overall NBA draft pick Michael Beasley worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers for a second time Wednesday.