December 31, 2017, 2:57 pm
The Lakers (11-23) take on the Rockets (25-9) on Saturday, hoping to build some momentum going into the new year. It may prove to be challenging as the Lakers will be without three starters and Houston will be motivated to halt a five-game losing streak.
When these two teams last met, the Rockets were in the midst of a 14-game win streak and had the best record in the NBA. The loss against the Lakers derailed the Rockets’ season temporarily as they have lost five games in a row.
The Lakers went into that game playing competitive basketball against the league’s elite teams and pulled off the surprising upset, leading to positive expectations for the Los Angeles franchise. Instead the Lakers have lost five in a row of their own, including home losses to the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers.
Coach Luke Walton made some drastic changes to the Lakers’ lineup before the last game, moving Julius Randle into the starting role for Andrew Bogut and Jordan Clarkson to the bench in favor of Josh Hart. The logic behind the moves was sound as it allowed the Lakers to take an extended look at impeding free agent Randle and allowed Clarkson to anchor the second unit — a role he is adept at. However, coach Walton may not be afforded that luxury as the Lakers will be without both their starting guards when they take on the Rockets.
Randle did excel in his starting role with 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block on 8-of-16 shooting from the field. Clarkson was much better with the second unit than as a starter, accruing 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds on 9-of-16 shooting.
- The Lakers shoot only 32.5 percent (30th) in the the league from 3-point distance compared to the Rockets who shoot 36.6 percent (12th). When the Lakers upset the Rockets on December 20th, the Lakers beat the Rockets at their own game hitting 15-of-35 (42.9 percent) from deep vs. 17-of-42 (40.5 percent).
- The Lakers also played a relatively turnover-free game in that contest with only 10 miscues compared to 15 for the Rockets. On the season the Lakers commit 16.2 (29th) turnovers a game while the Rockets are a touch better with 15.3 (22nd) per game.
- One huge disparity between the two teams is free throw shooting. The Rockets excel at getting to the line and shoot 79.8 percent (4th) when they get there. The Lakers, on the other hand, are the worst in the league at 68.9 percent from the free throw line.
- The Rockets score 114.3 (2nd) points per game vs. 106.3 (11th) for the Lakers.
- Los Angeles started the year touting a much improved defensive team with a 103.0 (9th) defensive rating. During their five-game losing streak they are significantly worse at 111.7 (24th) per game. Houston is 10th in the league for the season with a rating of 104.4 but has struggled of late as well due to injuries to defensive stalwarts Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Clint Capela and Chris Paul.
Tyler Ennis (PG)
Josh Hart (SG)
Brandon Ingram (SF)
Kyle Kuzma (PF)
Julius Randle (C)
Chris Paul (PG)
James Harden (SG)
Trevor Ariza (SF)
Ryan Anderson (PF)
Clint Capela (C)
Lonzo Ball (shoulder) – OUT
Brook Lopez (ankle) – OUT
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (personal/legal) – OUT
Tyler Ennis (illness) – STARTING
James Harden (bruised foot) – STARTING
Ryan Anderson (lower back) – PROBABLE
Troy Williams (knee) – OUT
Nene (undisclosed) – DAY-TO-DAY
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (shoulder) – OUT
Time: 4:00 PM PST, 7:00 PM EST
Television: SPECSN/SPECD, AT&T SPORTSNET – SOUTHWEST
Radio: 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES