The (4-21) Lakers are back at 1111 S. Figueroa Street, in downtown Los Angeles, to battle the (12-14) Houston Rockets for the second time in five days. Thanks to some home cooking; a game-high 22 points from Kobe Bryant, 19 points off the bench from D’Angelo Russell coupled with a career-high seven assists, 47 points from their reserves and a total of seven Lakers scoring in double-digits the purple and gold finally put it all together resulting in a rare 113-95 blowout win. A nine-win team can beat a defending champion and snap a 24-game win streak one night and get broken in half by a three-win team on another, welcome to today’s NBA.
The Lakers got off to a solid start, led by as many as 22 points, 86-66 after three-quarters, made 10 three point shots for the fourth time this season and managed to snap not only a six-game losing skid, but also the streak of 14 straight opponents scoring 100 points or more. The 18-point win stands as the largest margin of victory this season. Los Angeles had a season-high 18 offensive rebounds that led directly to a season-high 29 second-chance points (on 12 -19 shooting). The Lakers handed out 26 assists, a season-best, in addition to 15 second half assists, the most in a half this season.
Offensively, Los Angeles has played more efficient, in Kobe’s last five games, Bryant has produced 18.2 points on 47.2-percent shooting, five rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.2 steals in 28 minutes of play. Similarly, D’Angelo Russell, in his last four games, has produced 19.5 points, five assists, three rebounds, three steals as well as knocking down three shots from behind the 3-point arc. The 19-year old Russell has hit multiple triples in 13 games this season. Julius Randle posted his team-leading 11th double-double of the season (14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds), first among second-year players in double-double’s.
The 21-year old Randle is currently one of 12 NBA players with 11+ double-doubles. The purple and gold clad team has an all-time record of 18-13 against the Rockets at the Staples Center, although the Lakers have lost their last two games to the Rockets including a 126-97 defeat five days ago, in Houston, in the finale of the Lakers eight-game road trip. The Lakers last home win against the Rockets, a 99-95 win, in overtime on 4/17/13. Houston has dropped two games after their win over the Lakers. The ramshackle Rockets come into tonight’s game amidst rumors that their center Dwight Howard is extremely unhappy with his role in the offense in concert with a disdain in playing second fiddle to James Harden. Spoiler alert; these actions will result in déjà vu, for the Houston Rockets, only.
The Lakers have the opportunity to build off of their success against the Bucks. Offensively, the Lakers an excellent performance moving, passing and cutting, in the same fashion, making the defense work, limit their turnovers and equally important to find the open man. The Rockets surrendered 50 points in the paint in their last game, the Lakers need to utilize more back door cuts, have their big players run the baseline as well as receive touches in the painted area to attack closer to the basket. The Lakers commitment to defense determines the team’s success or failure . Defensively, the Lakers need to communicate on defense, stop the ball, do a solid job on the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of James Harden, limit the Rockets to one shot per possession, surround Rockets center Dwight Howard and (just in case D12 receives the requested more touches in the paint) make him play in a crowd, quickly rotate out to open shooters, box their men out and rebound.
Lakers: D. Russell, L. Williams, K. Bryant, L. Nance, R. Hibbert
Rockets: P. Beverly, J. Harden, C. Brewer, D. Motiejunas, D. Howard
Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST
• Los Angeles: TNT
• Houston: TNT
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
• Houston : KBME Sportstalk 790 (Craig Ackerman & Joel Blank)
• Clint Capela (Illness) Day-to-Day