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Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers game preview

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The Rockets open the season in Los Angeles as the Lakers host Houston in the Staples Center

If this doesn't get you excited for this game you need to check yourself, before you wreck yourself.
If this doesn't get you excited for this game you need to check yourself, before you wreck yourself.
USA TODAY Sports

Before we get started, I want to link to our Revised Community Guidelines from last year. If you've been here before, you know the drill: swearing is okay if there's a purpose to it, and personal attacks and slurs are grounds for insta-bans. Don't troll here or on other sites and be nice to opposing fans if they are trying to start a discussion or if they have legitimate questions. Remember, the swearing rule is only for TDS, so that doesn't mean you can go and swear on other sites unless they allow it. If you have questions about this stuff, ask away in the comments. Otherwise, act like decent human beings and we'll never have to talk about this again.

And now on to the preview!

Watching basketball has been hard since the Rockets' season ended in the playoffs. I couldn't watch full games until the Finals. Everywhere I looked, TNT and ESPN were trying to shove Voldemort's series-winning three pointer in my face. It was hard to be a basketball fan when it seemed like the media had a vendetta against your team.

But the Rockets would have a great offseason right? If they could get rid of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, they would have enough money to sign a big-name free agent. Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and even LeBron James were options for Houston and it seemed safe to say Houston would get someone to help the team.

Then it all went to shit, and the Rockets scrambled to sign the Former Rockets Brigade and have a semblance of the starting power they enjoyed last year. Of course, in addition to reading about how our hearts were broken by Voldemort and Portland, now we had to read about how Houston had the worst offseason ever and that Mark Cuban had outsmarted Daryl Morey. Then we heard Mavs fans and Cuban bragging about it. It sucked a lot.

I thought about taking a year off from basketball and The Dream Shake. Not just because of all of those things, but because I had let basketball matter so much that those events bothered me to the point of numbness. I almost left, but Mike and BD need me for the podcast so I couldn't go anywhere. In truth, I just needed some time to cool off. I'm not sure I'll ever fully recover from last season but I think I can give you some full-strength previews.

So it's on to 2014-2015. Lots of NBA folks think the Rockets won't make the playoffs (though I love how every one of them thinks they're going against the grain to say so). The rest of the West got better, but the Rockets either stayed the same or got worse depending on your personal opinions of Asik and Lin. So picking the Rockets not to make the postseason isn't as ballsy as you think it is, media columnists and bloggers.

The goal of every NBA season is to win a championship, and the Rockets as currently constructed won't be doing that. But Daryl Morey is the best GM in basketball and I'd rather have him than anyone else to finish this team. If there's one man who could keep this window open, it's Morey.

In the preseason, Houston hasn't surprised us much. We expected the starters to succeed and the bench to struggle. That's pretty much exactly what happened. While Propeller Plane and Francisco Garcia are accomplished veterans and D-Mo can handle the 4, the Rockets are going to need heavy minutes from their starters this season.

Tonight, the Rockets take on the Lakers in front of a national audience. I expect both teams to be up for this game, especially since people have been badmouthing both squads all summer.

Tip off is at 9:30pm CST on TNT.

Matchups:

Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Jeremy Lin

I don't want to talk about this one because of all the LOFs that are hanging around here and...wait they're gone???

Due to injuries to Steve Nash and Ronnie Price, Lin will probably play a ton of minutes, especially with Jordan Clarkson being his backup. Clarkson is a second rounder out of Missouri.

LA fandom should be crazy this season with Kobe fans and Lin fans going at it. I can't wait for Kobe to diss Lin on the sly followed by Lin's fans saying that Lin is better than Kobe followed by Kobe fans murdering every Lin fan they can find. It's going to be glorious.

For any Lakers fans that don't know how LOFs operate, just use this handy flow chart. Substitute Kobe for Harden and Byron Scott for McHale and you'll get a decent understanding.

Lin flowchart

Advantage: Rockets

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Kobe Bryant

I think James Harden is better than Kobe Bryant. I realize that I'm not going out on a limb and that most non-Lakers fans would agree with me.

However, I think Kobe Bryant has been ready for this game for a long time. That is, he's been ready to face Dwight Howard for over a year. Last season, he didn't play against Houston in any of their matchups, although he was in Houston when the Lakers beat the Rockets and was out high-fiving everybody. You could tell it meant more to him than a win over any other team.

So I think he'll get his tonight. I expect locked-in Kobe to come in tonight and gun for 40. He wants to make a statement early in the season that he's back. He wants to show that he's still the best two-guard in the league. He wants another ring. He wants the overall scoring title. But first, he wants to beat Dwight and humiliate him.

Advantage: Lakers

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Wesley Johnson

Mike, BD, and I talked quite a bit about Ariza in the first Red Nation Radio of the season. The conclusion was this: Ariza should be an upgrade over Parsons in that he plays on both ends. Parsons knew the system better and was more of a cutter than Ariza. And so many times when Parsons wasn't on the court there was no movement off the ball and everyone just stared at Harden and Howard. However, Ariza can still light it up from deep and is an upgrade athletically. He'll learn the nuances to the offense that will help him be more effective. In the meantime, his defense will give the Rockets more opportunities to trigger their fast break.

Johnson shot 37 percent from 3 last year and will probably do quite a bit of that this season if Byron Scott allows the Lakers to take 3s. That's actually kind of a fascinating subplot this season. Despite the existence of people who still think analytics has no place in basketball, pretty much every team has used it to some extent. Every team knows to shoot the corner 3 and not to give up the corner 3. Every team tries to get to foul line. Fewer and fewer teams are taking long 2s unless forced to late in the shot clock.

Advantage: Rockets

Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Carlos Boozer

I'm doing fantasy basketball with some friends this year, but it's a different kind of league. Instead of just drafting the best players you can, we decided to act like real GMs. We set a $75 million hard cap for 15 players. For every player you draft, you have to "pay" their salary. All trades and add/drops have to keep you under the cap. It totally changes the way you draft in fantasy. Anthony Davis and LeBron James went 1-2, which is probably how most drafts will go (probably vice-versa). The rest of the first round: Andre Drummond, Voldemort, Kenneth Faried, and Klay Thompson.

Kobe Bryant wasn't drafted. No one has Carmelo Anthony, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, or Dwight Howard. Chach Douche is on no one's team.

Only one Laker was drafted, and it was Boozer (at $3.3 million). Terrence Jones was taken in the sixth round (at $1.6 million). There's only 6 of us, so Terrence Jones was take in the top 36. Crazy right? But that value is there.

In the meantime, I still hate Carlos Boozer. Terrence Jones should outplay Boozer due to his athleticism, so we might see a bunch of Julius Randle and Ed Davis to counter that. Davis has been having a good preseason, especially when running the pick-and-roll with Lin.

Advantage: Rockets

Center: Dwight Howard vs. Jordan Hill

So the theme for tonight is clearly "Revenge Night."

Lin gets revenge against the Rockets.

Kobe and Lakers fans get revenge on Dwight (for leaving I guess).

And Dwight gets revenge against the Lakers and Kobe (for being jerks I guess).

And every time Dwight visits LA from now on, I'll be reminded of this:

Advantage: Rockets

Bench (Too tough right now with no knowledge of rotations, but after a few games this section will exist)

Rockets: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Lakers: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Advantage: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Prediction: Rockets win a close one, 102-97

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