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Lakers at Rockets: 3 Things to Know (1/18/20)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers begin their road trip against the Houston Rockets.
1) Bench stepped up
The Lakers may have seen their nine-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday, but it took an all-hands-on-deck effort to turn a 21-point deficit into a one-point loss.
Quinn Cook enjoyed his best game yet as a Laker, both dissecting Orlando’s defense with his ball handling and spotting up as a long-range threat. Cook, who had 22 points, also saw his four 3-pointers matched by Troy Daniels, whose own hot shooting led him to 17 on the night.
Meanwhile, Dwight Howard continued to do work down low, hauling in a season-best 16 rebounds — half of which came on the offensive glass. The former Rocket will look to keep shining against his old team, having averaged 12.0 points and 12.8 boards in his last five games.
2) How will they handle Harden?
For the first time this season, the Lakers will face arguably the deadliest offensive player in the game: James Harden.
The one-man battalion is on pace for a scoring season only matched by one other man. Harden’s 37.2 points per game currently rank fifth in NBA history — and the only four seasons ahead of him were all performed by the legendary Wilt Chamberlain. Opponents have tried traps, double-teams, full-court pressure and more on Harden, and rarely have they succeeded.
Perhaps the most impressive part of his game has been the variety with which he confounds his foes. He leads the NBA in 3-pointers with 5.0 game, while nobody else is even averaging four. Same thing for his 10.6 free throws, while everyone else has yet to hit eight. Whether it’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green or an armada of Lakers, the defense will be challenged by fire.
3) The supporting cast is strong too
While Harden may be getting all the attention, Houston would not be 26-15 (and 14-5 at home) without having strength in other areas.
Most notably, Russell Westbrook gives the Rockets an extra gear with his freakish athleticism and fearless approach to the game. An offensive engine in his own right, Westbrook ranks just outside of the NBA’s top 10 in both scoring (24.8; 12th) and assists (7.2; 11th).
Clint Capela — second in rebounds (14.5) and fifth in field goal percentage (63.7) — has proven himself an ideal partner in two-man games with Harden and Westbrook, while Eric Gordon, Ben McLemore and Danuel House provide surplus shooting. It will be quite the test for a Lakers roster waiting to see if it will have the services of Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo.
Lakers:Alex Caruso (neck soreness) is probable. Anthony Davis (gluteus maximus contusion) and Rajon Rondo (non-displaced fracture, right ring finger) are questionable. DeMarcus Cousins (right knee rehabilitation) is out.
Rockets: Austin Rivers (right thumb sprain), Gerald Green (left cuneiform fracture) and Nene Hilario (left adductor strain) are out.
Tip-Off: 5:30 p.m. PT
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 Tu Liga
Unis: Gold City
Location: Toyota Center — Houston, Texas
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