The Lakers returned to the west coast after going 5-2 on their marathon 13-day road trip. The team experienced inconsistent shooting, defensive lapses and fatigue but the road trip was successful.

Los Angeles will play five of their final seven games at home. Tonight they’ll face a Rockets team that they’ve a 3-0 record against seeking their 60th win for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

The Lakers have clinched home-court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs while the Rockets are fighting to host a first-round series. The Lakers lost the season series to Houston last year, for the first time since the 1996-97 season.

The Lakers have played the Rockets so well that according to STATS Inc. they’re averaging 106 points and 51.2 % shooting against them and have won by an average of 13.3 points per game.

It has been stated on more than one occasion that defensively is where games are won or lost, the Lakers have played stellar defense against Houston managing to considerably slow down Yao Ming & Ron Artest.

The Lakers need to deny Yao from catching the ball in the post and put a tremendous amount of pressure on the passer. Force Yao to have to move his feet to catch a pass in the painted area by keeping a player between him and the passer.

The Lakers will have to slow both players again and limit their impact on this game. Hopefully the team will receive a contribution of tough rebounding & defense from DJ Mbenga & Josh Powell.

The Lakers need solid games from Kobe, Pau & Lamar, and a solid contribution for everyone especially the reserves that are long overdue for a breakout game. The task to slow guards Aaron Brooks, Von Wafer and Luther Head; limit the drive and kick opportunities, will be a team effort.

The Lakers will face a zone defense and will have to attack it and work to get closer to the basket and not settle for too many jump shots. Los Angeles needs to get in rhythm early executing their triangle offense using excellent player movement and ball movement and feed off of the home crowd.

It is imperative Los Angeles controls the tempo, boards and get back in transition. The Lakers have been clogging the paint in Andrew’s absence, but failing to rotate out to three point shooters and paying dearly. I want to see solid defense without fouling.

The Lakers need to work on their pick-and-roll defense because they’ll see a lot of it and need to be on the same page on how to defend it. Hopefully, Ron Artest will talk smack to Kobe again to get him going.

Tipoff: 7:30 PM PST

Television

  • Los Angeles: Fox Sports West 1 HD (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
  • Houston: FSN Houston HD (Bill Worrell & Clyde Drexler)

Radio

  • Los Angeles: AM570 KLAC (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
  • Houston: KILT Sportsradio 610 (Craig Ackerman)

Injuries

Lakers:

  • Andrew Bynum (Knee)

Rockets:

  • Tracy McGrady (Knee)