Lakers take on Rockets for final time this season

The Lakers have beaten the Rockets two out of three times this season.

The Los Angeles Lakers continue on their long Grammy road trip. Their second game on this voyage finds the Lakers in Houston, Texas as they take on the young Rockets (21-24) squad.

They’re familiar at this point. The Lakers and Rockets have taken on each other three times already this season. On Nov. 8, the Rockets punished a Laker team without Anthony Davis. Houston outrebounded the Lakers by 23 as they embarrassed the Lakers with a 34-point victory. 11 days later, Davis was available and they were able to squeak by the Rockets, 105-104, behind 37 points by LeBron James. Like Saturday’s classic against Golden State, LeBron won it with a clutch foul shot (Dillon Brooks had one last shot but it didn’t go).

Finally, Lakers won the third match-up on Dec. 2. It was mostly a non-eventful 10-point win by the Lakers as Anthony Davis went for 27 points, 14 rebounds, and five rejections.

As I mentioned before, the Rockets are a young team with five players that are 21 or younger. But they added veteran stability with Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks (yes, I said stability and Dillon Brooks in the same sentence). Ex-Celtics coach Ime Udoka has them playing some chaotic defense, too (they’re 8th in defensive rating!). The Rockets also play the perimeter well; they allow the second lowest percentage fro three at .344. Which explains why the Lakers have had a hard time making threes against them; L.A. is only 21 for 81 (.259) from three in those three games.

Still, it’s clear that the Rockets can’t stop the Lakers in the paint as long as Davis is playing (Lakers are +10 in the paint in their second game and then +20 in the third game; without Davis, Rockets were +26 in that first game). Alperen Şengün can hold his own, regardless (21 points and 10 boards per game against the Lakers) so he’s someone the Lakers should try to hold down. Three-point shooting (somehow, they are 16th in the league and up to .365 in percentage) is always a concern with the Lakers (both their own and their opponents) so that goes without saying.

But we still continue to look at their energy despite them winning 5 of 7 games. It’s been better as of late and it’s no coincidence that the increased health and playing time of Jarred Vanderbilt has given the Lakers extra pep. Maybe this has been the solution all along and it was about waiting for Vando to get healthy. Nevertheless, we’re in the same spot as last year where every game is amplified as the Lakers try to improve their position. They can do better than 9th place.

It’s a long road for the Lakers. But at least, they still have plenty of time. Maybe Saturday was a turning point or maybe not. After all, last year’s Lakers probably had 47 “turning points” and it took until the last week of the season for them to get it together. Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long this time.