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Rockets vs. Lakers game preview: LeBron chose to return tonight

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I think LeBron James knew what he was doing in early January. The plan was simple.

Destroy the Houston Rockets once and for all.

On January 10 and 12, the Rockets and Lakers played twice in three nights, with both games coming at Toyota Center. Both games were over midway through the second quarter, and while the final score lines (120-102 and 117-100) look like typical blowouts, they don’t tell the whole story.

In the first game, LA preyed on Houston’s lack of hustle. They pushed the tempo after every miss to the tune of 32 fast break points in the first contest. That’s a silly number. It was clear that the Rockets tried to emphasize that in the second game, “only” giving up 17 fast break points in the rematch. But the Lakers began a trend that has dogged the Rockets this year under Stephen Silas: they cashed in on wide open threes, shooting 44% in that game.

Those two games, against the defending NBA champions and ostensibly the team the Rockets were attempting to compete with for that ultimate prize, signaled that the relationship between James Harden and the Rockets was done. He was traded the next day.

So it only makes sense that LeBron James’s second return from an ankle injury comes against the Rockets. Obviously, Houston has nothing to play for other than next year. There’s plenty of young guns on the team trying to show off to Rafael Stone or Stephen Silas or other teams. The Rockets are giving those players an audition (and paying them a pretty penny as well).

Tonight also marks the last game of the season in the Pacific Time Zone, thankfully.

Tip-off is at 9:30pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest

Poll

How wonderful would it be for the Lakers to have to play in the Play-In Tournament?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    So wonderful
    (41 votes)
  • 6%
    Incredible
    (7 votes)
  • 19%
    Amazing
    (21 votes)
  • 34%
    It would only be improved if Luka was also in it
    (37 votes)
106 votes total Vote Now