• It was a low-key Thursday with only one game on the slate. The Lakers cruised to a Game 4 victory, with relative ease, over the Rockets to take a stranglehold on the series. Let’s take a look at what went down Thursday and preview some DFS and betting options for Friday.

    Lakers cruise to 3-1 series lead

    The Lakers finally made the adjustment most had been calling for and slid Anthony Davis to the center position to better match up with the Rockets small ball lineup. Playing “small” did not hinder Los Angeles in any capacity and they dominated the majority of the game on their way to a 110-100 victory, that was not as close as the score would infer.

    Markieff Morris got the start at power forward, making the Lakers defense much more versatile, giving them the ability to double team James Harden but still recover and run shooters off the 3-point line more effectively. The game started at a sluggish, sloppy pace and both teams were lazy will the ball, turning it over and missing easy shots early in the game. While their offense picked up late in the first quarter the Lakers defense was stellar in the first half, holding Houston to 41 points on 3 of 13 shooting from deep and forcing them into nine turnovers. Very early in the contest it was apparent Los Angeles wanted to defend Houston’s stars. They trapped Harden, not allowing him to shoot three’s and keyed in on Russell Westbrook when he touched the ball, not allowing him to get to the rim at the rate he would like to.

    Houston’s offense woke up in the third quarter where they knocked down six threes but still trailed by 17. The Lakers started to relax just a bit too much late in the fourth and the Rockets were able to claw back into the game for a brief moment. Houston went smaller than usual, and went on an 18-2 run sparked by a four-guard lineup that included Harden, Westbrook, Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon. The run, aided by awful Laker shooting and multiple turnovers, cut the lead to 7 with just over three minutes remaining. In an attempt to stop the bleeding, the Lakers gave it to the biggest man on the court and Anthony Davis was able to body the smaller Gordon for a bucket that gave LA some breathing room. Shortly thereafter an Alex Caruso three put Houston out of reach, and an off-the-backboard-alley-oop from Rajon Rondo to LeBron James with under a minute left put the proverbial nail in the coffin of not only the game, but the Rockets’ season.

    Other than the stretch in the fourth quarter, where LA missed 10 of 11 shots from behind the arc, they completely dominated the game. The size disparity was on display all night and Houston had no answer for it. The Rockets were outscored in the paint 64-24 and 17-3 on second chance points. The Lakers wanted to slow the game down on the defensive end, and that is exactly what they did, outscoring Houston on the break 19-2 and not allowing a fast break point until the fourth quarter. This marks the first time in NBA playoff history a team had 0 fast break points and 0 second chance points through three quarters.

    It was a wire-to-wire victory for LA who had six different players score in double figures including Rajon Rondo who had 11 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists off the bench, making him the first player to drop 10/10/5 off the bench in Lakers playoff history. LeBron seemed to be in cruise control for much of the night and was not the most assertive on the offensive end. He was in distribution mode and got everyone else involved before ending the game with 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists with a game high +15 plus/minus. AD led the way for LA with 29 points on 10-18 shooting and added 12 boards and five dimes to his stat line. Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each added 10 and Alex Caruso provided a spark off the bench, tying a career high with 16 points. Rookie Talen Horton-Tucker surprised everyone when Frank Vogel called him off the bench midway through the second quarter and he provided a solid seven minutes, in his seventh career game, scoring five points and swiping two steals in that span.

    Houston was the third best offense in the league, scoring 117 points a night, in the regular season but they have been stifled over the last two games. Harden made only two of his 11 field goal attempts but shot more free throws than the entire Lakers team, making 16 of 20 from the stripe. He also added 10 assists, four rebounds, three blocks, and two steals in a game where his final stats look much better than his actual play. Westbrook had a team high 25 points on an efficient 8-16 shooting, including three makes from deep. Eric Gordon had 19 and Austin Rivers added 14 off the bench. Houston was flat on both ends of the floor for 43 minutes of the game, and with their fate all but sealed questions regarding the team’s future are on the horizon. Rumors regarding Mike D’Antoni not returning to his post as head coach have been swirling for a few weeks already and once their season is officially over, I am sure their personnel and small ball game plan will be scrutinized even more.

    LA will look to close the series out in Game 5 on Saturday, putting us in position for what we have all been waiting for, the LA/LA Conference Finals.

    Friday DFS

    Here are a couple players on the cheaper end worth taking a look at for Friday’s contests.
    Ivica Zubac

    Zubac has averaged 24 minutes a game so far in this series to go along with 9.5 points and 7.3 rebounds. He has always been a player that is going to get points and rebounds on high percentages, as long as he gets the minutes. The Clippers need his big body down low to wrestle with Nikola Jokic and his increase 30 minutes played in Game 4 could be a sign he will have a bigger role in Game 5. He is worth a look to save some funds.

    Norman Powell

    Powell’s 38 minutes off the bench in Game 6 are slightly misleading due to the double-overtime contest. But in his time on the court, he produced. Toronto has gone to a small ball rotation with Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka only combining for 37 minutes in Game 6. Powell was the beneficiary and his production could lead to more opportunities in Game 6. He has shot the ball well this year, averaging 16 points on 49% from the field and 40% from deep.

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