The Los Angeles Lakers have been smothered by the media the past few days for one of many reasons. The Lakers (15-18) are on a three-game losing streak and their on-court play has been putrid as of late. In the past two days the Lakers learned that they’ve lost three of their top big men, for an indefinite amount of time, including Dwight Howard (torn labrum), Pau Gasol (concussion), and Jordan Hill (partially torn labrum). Lastly the rumor that Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard got into a physical altercation on Friday night following the loss to the Clippers has spread like wild fire despite Kobe’s lighthearted picture posted on his twitter account yesterday. With all the stories barraging the Lakers, they will suit up tonight to face the Houston Rockets (20-14) at the Toyota Center at 5:00PM PT.
Rookie Robert Sacre, who is two days removed from playing in the D-League, will make the first regular season start of his career. Sacre is averaging less than one point, one rebound and one block in 4.2 minutes a game this year. The Lakers will be without 36.2 points and 26.5 rebounds tonight, numbers that equal the combined averages of Howard, Gasol, and Hill. As coach Mike D’Antoni reminded the media today, Los Angeles will still start two NBA greats in Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. Nash has averaged a double-double in points and assists since returning to the court seven games ago. The Lakers chances of winning rest almost entirely in the hands of Steve Nash. Kobe Bryant will over-compensate and will score 40+ points tonight, but Nash must control the floor and put the Lakers role players in the best possible position to score. Tonight will be a historic night for Nash as he is five assists short of reaching the 10,000 assist club, a fraternity that is composed of only four players.
This will be the third time the Rockets will see the Lakers, with the teams splitting the first two matchups. The Rockets have the ability to overpower the Lakers with their backcourt tandem of Jeremy Lin and James Harden. Lin has underperformed remarkably in his two meetings with the Lakers this season, averaging just 4.5 points and 6.5 assists in 25.5 minutes a game. Even though the Lakers have stopped Lin, the Rockets still have Harden, Chandler Parsons, and Patrick Patterson that can put up big numbers. Houston has also had role players, like Toney Douglas and Greg Smith, step up against the Lakers this season. Look for Houston to try and exploit the Lakers lack of size in the low-post tonight.
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