Game 72 Preview: Lakers at Rockets

At this point, who really likes the Lakers? Unless you live in LA or are just a huge Kobe fan, you really cannot like this team. I like Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Jordan Farmar. Heck, I even like Adam Morrison (Onions!).

I still hate this team. To me, they are the anti-Thunder. Their fans are awful and feel like they deserve whatever they want. They've become spoiled rotten because their team has Kobe and money to spend all the time. If the NBA ever institutes a hard cap, Lakers fans would die a little.

The Rockets are decimated by injuries right now. They'll probably be Battier-less for the rest of the season. Who knows about the rest. K-Mart, Andersen, Jeffries, and Hill are all out, most likely, too.

To make matters worse, the Lakers were riding a 7-game winning streak into Oklahoma City last night. They lost 91-75, and Kobe scored 11 and had 9 (NINE!) turnovers. So, they'll be pissed. Fantastic.

I guess we're on to the matchups.

Star-divide

Matchups:

PG: Aaron Brooks vs. Derek Fisher:

Fisher starts for the Lakers, but the team really has a three-headed monster at the point. Fisher plays about 26 mpg, Farmar plays 18, and Shannon Brown plays about 20. Together, the BFF squad averages 22/6/6. Brown also plays plenty at the 2 when Kobe needs a break or if the Lakers want to go small.

Specifically, Fisher is 35, and it's been showing for a few years. He was also a complete douche during the playoffs against the Rockets last year. He tried to hurt the one Rockets who doesn't get hurt.

Brown has developed a reputation as a great dunker, because he is, but his game has picked up with the Lakers.

Farmar and teammate DJ Mbenga have daily contests to see who has the goofiest ears in the league. Both lose every time.

Advantage: Rockets

SG: Chase Budinger vs. Kobe Bryant:

Kobe is Kobe. Count me in the group that considers him the best player in the NBA right now. In a couple of years I'll probably say LeBron. But right now, it's Kobe. But I digress.

After playing in all 82 regular season games for the last two seasons, plus the Olympics in 2008, injuries caught up to Kobe. For five games. Stupid, lucky bastard. Actually, Kobe has always been in great shape and his preparation for every game is astounding. It's what makes him so good.

Is it just me, or does Kobe Bryant never get or look embarrassed? LeBron's been dunked on twice by Courtney Lee and once by Jordan Crawford. The only time I've seen Kobe look bad was when Romel Beck crossed him over and picked up a four-point play during the FIBA Americas in 2007. Shane defends him well, but he doesn't make him look silly.

I don't know who the Rockets will trot out to play shooting guard, but Trevor will probably get placed on Kobe Island for this game.

Advantage: Lakers

SF: Trevor Ariza vs. Ron Artest:

Ron-Ron has played pretty good defense for the Lakers, as expected. I still think the Rockets won the swap, but Ron is averaging a respectable 11/4/3. He's shooting better with the Lakers than he did here last year. If K-Mart doesn't play, Ron will be able to focus on his offense rather than having to track Martin all over the court.

As soon as Trevor starts getting more aggressive and likable, he gets hurt. He returned to the game later on, so that assuaged my fears a little bit. Hopefully, he plays and plays well. He'll need to come early to keep up with Kobe.

Advantage: Even

PF: Luis Scola vs. Lamar Odom:

Dave talked about how Luis never gets injured. I am going to try to reverse-jinx him by saying that I will not be surprised in the slightest if Luis goes down tonight. Also, whoever voted on that fanpost about not wanting to bring Scola back has some 'splainin to do.

Lamar Odom is averaging 10/10 this year, but with no Bynum those numbers get better. I still like Luis more, so he gets the edge.

Advantage: Rockets

C: Chuck Hayes vs. Pau Gasol:

Andrew Bynum is injured so Pau will start at center. Poor Lakers fans. It must be really rough to lose your center for part of the season. My heart goes out to them, especially because they're Lakers fan and therefore are entitled to whatever they want.

Pau has a double-double in his last four games. Much like how Bynum played better when Pau was out at the beginning of the year, Pau plays much better when Bynum isn't around. I wish we had two all-around capable centers. Sigh.

Advantage: Lakers

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Bench:

Lakers: Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Farmar, Josh Powell, Mbenga, Morrison

Rockets: Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey, Garrett Temple, Will Conroy, Brian Cook, Shane Battier, Jared Jeffries, Jordan Hill, David Andersen, Kyle Lowry, Jermaine Taylor, Chase Budinger, Mike Harris, and Hilton Armstrong. So that's a guy with a serious limp, two rookies, one guy who is pretty much a rookie, and Mike Harris.

Advantage: Lakers

Injuries:

Lakers: Bynum, Luke Walton

Rockets: Battier (knee), Jeffries (Achilles), Hill, Martin?, Andersen?

Prediction: Rockets keep this competitive into the third quarter, but lose by 20.

Lakers vs Rockets coverage

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