Let’s get this out of the way first: the NBA wants a Los Angeles-Los Angeles Conference Finals. If Houston shows any fight in this series, don’t be surprised to see Scott Foster make a couple of appearances.
That being said, the Lakers are the better team overall. Their depth trumps Houston’s role players. Meanwhile, LA’s stars played well in the first round while James Harden and Russell Westbrook had uneven performances against Oklahoma City.
This series is going to be billed as “small ball vs. traditional lineups,” and that’s fair. The Lakers play big and don’t necessarily hunt three pointers. The Rockets are the exact opposite. Like in most games involving Houston, their success is directly tied to their ability to hit threes and Westbrook’s ability to use the spread out defense to attack the basket and get easy buckets.
I just think the Lakers have too much for Houston and will find a way to take advantage of their size advantage in a way that others have failed to do. I’ve got Lakers in 5.
THE ROCKETS HAVE BEAT THE THUNDER, AND MADE IT INTO THE SECOND ROUND!! Now, we get to play the Los Angeles Lakers. The series is fascinating for a lot of reasons. Can James Harden and Russell Westbrook outduel LeBron James and Anthony Davis? Is small ball better than tall ball? It is my opinion that the Lakers are a better matchup for the Rockets than the Thunder were, and I believe the Rockets will take advantage of numerous matchups. The Lakers struggle with their guard play, and that happens to be an area the Rockets excel at. Rockets in 6.
It should be no secret that the NBA wants the Lakers and Clippers to match up in the Western Conference Finals. It is a much more appealing series for storyline purposes, which may generate higher ratings for the league. Who wouldn’t want to witness the historically successful Lakers franchise, led by LeBron James, and the championship-less Clippers, led by Kawhi Leonard, duel for West Coast dominance? Keep in mind, a Lakers championship banner this season would be a great tribute to the late Kobe Bryant. For this reason, don’t be surprised if the officiating between the Rockets and Lakers seems a little off.
The Lakers are a premier team to begin with. Along with a solid depth chart, the threatening LeBron James and monstrous Anthony Davis will be hard to shut down. The Rockets, as much faith as I have in them as a unit, lack a true big man. There needs to be strong defensive force to stop Davis from bullying his way under the hoop. As excellent as the Rockets are on their offense, they will need to work extra hard to stop the Lakers from getting open shots and rebounds.
Now, putting the high expectations for the Lakers aside, the Rockets are championship caliber material. James Harden and Russell Westbrook, both former league MVPs if anybody needs a reminder, are battle-ready and hot under pressure. Last night, we saw Harden block a would-be buzzer beater from Luguentz Dort, and Westbrook steal the Thunder’s playoff hopes away from Steven Adams. The Rockets-Thunder series was a nail biter, but the Rockets were clutch when it mattered most.
Do the Rockets have a fighting chance against the Lakers? Yes. Will it be easy? No. I see this series going all the way to Game 7, with the Lakers pulling through.
-Eric Jay Santos
There are two sides of me: my subjective fandom side and my objective Switzerland side. The subjective side of me is very worried and nervous for this series considering the fact that the Thunder, a less talented team than the Lakers, took us to the brink. But, the subjective fandom side will pick the Rockets every time and is very excited about the prospects of not just playing, but beating the Lakers. Rockets in 6.
The objective side is probably a little more realistic and I look at the two teams from as neutral of a perspective as I can.
Objectively speaking, the Lakers are the #1 seed for a reason. LeBron James and Anthony Davis will wreak havoc in the frontcourt, but the Rockets will benefit from Russell Westbrook and James Harden doing the same in the backcourt. In the previous series, the Westbrook trade was put on trial, and the Rockets came out alive. In this series, small-ball is being put on trial.
I think the advantages of both teams offset enough to make this a very even matchup. Give me Lakers in 7, the same series score when the two teams last met in the playoffs in 2009.
During the last series, I predicted that the Rockets would narrowly squeeze by the Thunder in a seven-game series — and this is my prediction again. To be honest, I believe the Rockets can beat the Lakers in six, but I know there will be a game where a referee’s call will rule in Los Angeles’ favorite.
With that being said, if there is one team the Rockets’ small-ball have an advantage over, it’s the Lakers. Houston won their regular-season series 2-1, recording back-to-back wins against Los Angeles since fully committing to micro-ball in February. The reason? Houston’s defense has proven they can limit the production of their opponents’ big men, and it’s the reason why Anthony Davis has struggled when facing off against his Western Conference contemporaries.
If Davis’ on-court production continues to stagger against the Rockets, I do not believe LeBron James’ greatest will be enough to stave off a team that features a determined James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Rockets in seven.
This is a fascinating series. Superstar front court with LeBron James and Anthony Davis versus superstar back court with James Harden and Russell Westbrook (and maybe Eric Gordon, if he’s truly found his shot. I’ll admit, his shot’s so pretty, I always think it’s going in. Still.).
That initially sounds like the Portland series, but it is not quite. One, PJ Tucker is by some measures, the best individual defender of The Brow in the NBA. Two, the Rockets are made to beat big lineups, in some ways far more than they are the three tricky-floppy guard attack of OKC, along with OKC’s large (floppy) shooter, Danilo (The Big Chicken) Gallinari. Three, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, when engaged in defending, are actually pretty tough defenders, moreso I believe than Lillard and McCollum, as much as I respect their efforts. Harden, for example, is a great post defender, and remember, the NBA leader in steals. Also, LA has no one like The Immortal Unstoppable Lou Dort, (don’t even try to say Kyle Kuzma, lest you be mocked to death).
The Rockets very much want to play JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard off the floor, and Westbrook can make that happen. Some say a Davis-at-center lineup would be best for LA, but Davis from all evidence, hates playing center. So we’ll see on that.
I’ve been saying all bubble long that the Lakers have a tremendous guard problem, and they do. But for that to work for the Rockets guards, Westbrook, Harden and Gordon (and Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore) must obliterate the Laker guards.
On the downside, if the Rockets lose every single game’s free throw margin and get called for nearly twice as many personal fouls? It’s going to be a short, victorious, series for LA.
The Rockets also must both push pace, and not let the Lakers run. The Lakers pace, if not on the break is usually slow. The Rockets typically do not defend the break well, but they must defend it better. The Rockets must continue to push their actions early into the clock. They did this well against OKC.
Also, Lebron doesn’t want to run all the time, and Davis gets tired. Make them run on defense, make them chase the ball. Getting more shots up than the other team is always useful.
I was wrong by a game in the OKC series (I said six), but I hardly blame myself, it really should have been five games. I’ll say Rockets in seven, as the NBA wants this to be a long series, and both teams are good enough to make it one.
It’s a new series against a new team. It’s not the same as the last series. If the Rockets drop tonight’s game, barring some horrible problem, don’t worry too much.
I’d like to remind everyone that, like Coty, I nailed the first series with the Thunder by picking Rockets in 7. So you should listen to me! Kidding. But I do think this is actually an easier matchup for the Rockets. The playoffs are about matchups, and the Rockets were built to matchup with the Lakers. OKC had multiple guards to throw at James Harden and Russell Westbrook. The Lakers barely have two starters to throw at them. They should feast. Consequently, AD should feast too. But as long as he’s in the 26-28 points range, I think the Rockets have the ammo from deep drown L.A. in threes. Davis needs to take that next step for L.A. to win this series. If he’s averaging 32-38, the Rockets have their work cut out for them. Does he have it in him? I’m not sure if he’s that guy. In fact, my gut tells me he isn’t. Sure, there’s LeBron, but he can’t do it alone. Not anymore. I have Rockets in 6.
What’s your prediction for the series?
This poll is closed
Rockets in 4
Rockets in 5
Rockets in 6
Rockets in 7
Lakers in 4
Lakers in 5
Lakers in 6
Lakers in 7