April 10, 2018, 6:31 pm
The Rockets (64-16) head to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers (34-46) on Tuesday night.
The Lakers, who are limping to the finish line amidst a plethora of injuries, will be without Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. Without those key contributors, Los Angeles will be without 42.4 points, 18.5 rebounds and 12.9 assists per game — a significant amount of production to overcome.
One player who has been the antithesis of injury this year is Julius Randle, who is the only Laker to play in all 80 games to date. Along the way he has shown tremendous growth with 16.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 55.7 percent from the field (up from 48.7 percent the prior season). He has put himself in a tremendous position as an impending free agent, likely forcing the Lakers to find a way to keep him in the Purple and Gold regardless of their other offseason aspirations. Expect Randle to hear the fans’ admiration early and often Tuesday night.
Another pleasant surprise this season has been No. 30 overall draft pick Josh Hart, who has provided the team great defense, good outside shooting and impressed with his maturity and poise. He is coming off consecutive 20-point games including a performance where he went toe-to-toe with Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell, including blocking a dunk attempt by the high-flying phenom.
A feel good story for the Laker franchise is the signing of 32-year old Andre Ingram, who thought he was headed for his exit interview with the Los Angeles G-League affiliate before finding out he was getting signed for the Lakers’ final two games of the season. His calling card is his ability to shoot from 3-point range where he connects on 47.5 percent of his attempts — hopefully he gets a chance to knock down a few for the Lakers tonight.
The Rockets may not play their key players a full complement of minutes tonight, but they are expected to give them some run. They are led by MVP candidate James Harden, who is having his best season with averages of 30.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He has played better defense this year than in previous campaigns and deserves all the accolades he may receive.
-The Rockets have made 1227 3-pointers on 3377 attempts (36.3 percent) on the season compared to 795 makes on 2309 tries (34.4 percent) for the Lakers. That means that for the season, the Rockets are a plus-1296 from distance compared to Los Angeles. Houston has already set a record for most 3-pointers made in a season, breaking their own mark from one year ago.
-Houston leads the league with a plus-702 plus/minus on the season vs. Los Angeles who owns a minus-136 plus/minus rating for the year.
-The Rockets lead the league with a 112.7 offensive rating compared to 104.2 (23rd) for the Lakers. What is even more impressive is that Houston has a defensive rating of 103.9 (sixth) vs. 105.8 rating (14th) for Los Angeles. Their offense has been good for several seasons but the marked defensive improvement is the reason why the Rockets have the league’s best record.
-Houston opened the season 32-1 when Harden, Clint Capela and Chris Paul all started the game together — that trio has proved to be devastating for the rest of the league.
Projected Starting Lineups
Alex Caruso (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Josh Hart (SF)
Julius Randle (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Chris Paul (PG)
James Harden (SG)
Trevor Ariza (SF)
P.J. Tucker (PF)
Clint Capela (C)
Lonzo Ball (knee contusion) – OUT
Kyle Kuzma (ankle) – OUT
Brandon Ingram (concussion) – OUT
Luol Deng (ankle) – OUT
Eric Gordon (ankle) – OUT
Ryan Anderson (ankle) – OUT
Tarik Black (back) – QUESTIONABLE
Time: 7:30 PM PST, 10:30 PM EST
Television: TNT, TNT-SAP, SPECSN/SPECD, AT&T SPORTSNET – SOUTHWEST, SPORTSNET ONE
Radio: 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES