December 3, 2017, 2:37 pm
The Rockets (17-4) head to Los Angeles after a scorching November in which they went 12-1. They are first in the Western Conference and playing spectacular basketball at the moment.
The Lakers (8-14) are in a free-fall at the moment having lost four in a row and 7-of-10. They are fresh off a disappointing loss to the Nuggets who were playing without their entire starting frontcourt including their best player Nikola Jokic. The Lakers were outscored by 17 in the fourth quarter including a 15-0 run to end the game during which the team completely imploded. In the last four minutes the Lakers repeatedly turned the ball over leading to a strange and terrible ratio of four shot attempts to four turnovers — not a winning formula.
Lonzo Ball was badly out-dueled by his counterpart Jamal Murray who scored 28 points, four rebounds and four assists compared to nine points, nine assists and five rebounds for Ball. The two exchanged words all game but it was Murray who bested the struggling Laker rookie — putting an exclamation point on the victory by dribbling around Ball instead of politely dribbling the clock out. Several Lakers took offense to the disrespectful action including Julius Randle who drew a technical foul on the play. Ball, who incurred his first career technical earlier in the quarter, simply walked away.
After the game Murray chose to defend his controversial action by tweeting: “First time got this much hate lol, we just playin ball (with an emoji of a ball).” Regardless of whether or not one likes Murray’s actions, there is no debate that the best way to avoid such taunting is by Ball winning his match-ups on the court.
Brook Lopez ended a streak of four consecutive games of under seven points by asserting himself early and posting 15 points, three assists and five rebounds. He will be in a tough battle with Clint Capela who leads the league in field goal percentage at 67.0 percent while adding 13.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.7 blocks.
The main focus, off course, will be the Rockets star-studded backcourt of Harden and Chris Paul. Harden is currently in the discussion for MVP with stunning averages of 31.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 9.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.5 blocks. Paul’s starts are less impressive as he learns to play second fiddle to Harden posting 11.1 points, 10.3 assists , 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals.
Ball was experiencing some discomfort in his calf after the game against the Nuggets. Should he play, he will face a daunting match-up in Paul, a spectacular and physical defender.
- The Rockets average 113.9 (2nd) points per game compared to 106.3 (14th) for the Lakers.
- Houston is also better defensively giving up only 103.1 points per game whereas the Lakers struggle on that end allowing 109.0 a contest.
- The Lakers shoot 31.5 percent (30th) from 3-point range while Houston shoots 36.5 percent (14th).
- Los Angeles gets to the line a respectable 23.8 times a game (10th) but struggles to convert shooting 70.5 percent (30th) at the line compared to Houston who excels in both areas at 80.5 percent (5th) and 24.9 attempts (5th). This of course is largely due to Harden who gets to the line 9.2 times a game converting on 86.6 percent of his attempts.
- Turnovers continue to be a concern for Los Angeles as they average 17.4 a game (29th). Houston also is near the bottom of the league at 16.1 (23rd), however, the Rockets make up for it by being much more efficient in other aspects of their offense.
Lonzo Ball (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Brandon Ingram (SF)
Larry Nance Jr. (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Chris Paul (PG)
James Harden (SF)
Trevor Ariza (SF)
Ryan Anderson (PF)
Clint Capela (C)
Lonzo Ball (calf) – PROBABLE
Zhou Qi (calf) – OUT
Time: 6:30 PM PST, 9:30 PM EST
Television: SPECSN/SPECD, NBATV, ATTSN-SW
Radio: 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES