Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers game preview

Stephen Dunn

The Rockets look to avenge an early season loss to the Lakers and extend their home winning streak tonight.

Here's an interesting statistic.

The Lakers are 6th in scoring offense and 14th on defense. By that metric, they should be a pretty good team. They are 8-9.

Obviously the stat geeks will point to some arbitrary stat and say, "Look, they're 28th on shots that come with 14 seconds on the shot clock" or "When Kobe is on the floor and a bug flies onto it, he's shooting 32%."

The fact of the matter is that this Lakers team, despite their problems (read: the bench), are a pretty good basketball team. Hoopdata.com has four stats that it holds dear above all others: true field goal percentage, free throw rate, turnover rate, and offensive rebound rate. When you look at differentials, the Lakers rank 6th in eFG%, 1st in FTR, and 2nd in ORR. All of those statistics point to them being an elite team.

The problem is that they rank 28th in turnover rate. Between 3 and 15 feet, they are a terrible shooting team. That makes little sense, since Gasol and Howard have games that consist almost entirely in that area (when they aren't dunking, of course).

Also, their bench is bad, but improving since the D'Antoni system doesn't require them to do much other than shoot. It's decently hiding their flaws, but those will catch up with them too.

Update: Pau is out tonight, according to Feigen.

Tip off is at 7pm CST.

Matchups:

Point Guard: Jeremy Lin vs. Chris Duhon

Darius Morris starts but Duhon gets the minutes.

I was thinking: As poorly as Lin started the season and how Sampson had to pull him late against the Bulls, he's still one of the toughest Rockets to replace. Right now, Harden and Asik are the irreplaceable ones, with Asik holding a slight edge (you can win without Harden; without Asik, it's damn near impossible with this team). I think the next group is Parsons and Lin. Parsons holds an advantage here, too. He's our best perimeter defender, and just look how poorly the Rockets played against OKC (granted, mitigating circumstances).

So if Lin if the fourth most irreplaceable player on the team, how is it still scary to lose him? Well, first off I don't much trust Toney Douglas. But second, it shows how important everyone on the Rockets is right now. Patterson comes in fifth out of the starters, and even that's a major blow.

Yes, I know losing a starter always sucks, but most teams have the depth or the redundancies to fix it (think LeBron and Wade-one goes down, the other can pick up the playmaker role).

Here's hoping no Rocket ever gets injured. Ever. Knock on wood.

Advantage: Rockets

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Kobe Bryant

The last time the Rockets played the Lakers, Kobe came into the game shooting 53%. He's cooled considerably, now shooting a paltry 49%. Oh, and he had a triple double last time.

Kobe Bryant is still Kobe Bryant, so he's going to get all the foul calls when he misses and will still get to the free throw line a ton. Harden has to try to cancel him out tonight through scoring and keeping everyone involved.

Advantage: Lakers

Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Ron Artest

Artest will probably guard Harden. High pick and rolls will be the Rockets' best friend tonight. Make Artest chase after Harden while drawing one of the bigs away from the basket.

Artest has now established a bit of a history of playing well against the Rockets. As has former Rocket Jordan Hill. It's a bit disturbing, but I think it's a bit of an outlier. Hill isn't terrible, but neither of these guys should be lighting up the Rockets or playing particularly well against them.

Advantage: Rockets

Power Forward: Patrick Patterson vs. Pau Gasol

The D'Antoni offense has not been kind to Pau. In the last three games, he's averaging 9 points.

Still, he'll do all the things we've come to expect from him, such as rebounding and being the best passing big man in the league.

Advantage: Lakers

Center: Omer Asik vs. Dwight Howard

Food for thought for anyone still wondering why Asik is the most irreplaceable guy on the team.

The last time these teams met, Dwight Howard had 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks. He played 39 minutes and the Lakers won by 11. He should have had a +/- of like 15.

He was -1.

For the Rockets, Chandler Parsons had 24 points on 8-10 shooting and was the best Rocket on the floor by far. He was -18.

Patrick Patterson shot over 50% and grabbed 8 boards. He was -16.

Jeremy Lin had double digit assists. He was -20.

Omer Asik was 4-6 for 8 points. He missed all four of his free throws. He "only" grabbed nine boards and spent almost all of his 27 minutes guarding Dwight Howard, who was in the midst of a monster night. By most metrics, he was lousy.

He was only -4.

Advantage: Lakers

Bench

Rockets: Toney Douglas, Carlos Delfino, Marcus Morris, Greg Smith

Lakers: Antawn Jamison, David Ebanks, Darius Morris, Jodie Meeks

Advantage: Rockets

Prediction: Lakers win in a score-fest, 120-115.

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