The Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers will wrap up the series with their fourth meeting of the season, and the Rockets have beaten the Lakers on all previous three occasions including a 124-115 victory in the first duel at Staples Center. The Rockets failed to cover the spread only in the last H2H matchup on January 19, 2019, when they needed overtime to outlast the Lakers 138-134 as 7-point home favorites.
The Rockets (33-24; 26-30-1 ATS) are currently a No. 5 seed in the Western Conference one game behind the No. 4 seed Portland Trail Blazers and one game ahead of the No. 7 seed Utah Jazz, while they are just three games ahead of the Sacramento Kings at the 9th place. The Lakers (28-29; 25-31-1 ATS) are in a tough situation, sitting at the 10th spot of the Western Conference table three games behind the No. 8 seed Los Angeles Clippers.
Houston will probably miss Austin Rivers (elbow), but Clint Capela should return to the lineup tonight after missing more than a month of action. The Lakers will be without Lonzo Ball who’s still recovering from an ankle injury, while Josh Hart (knee) and Mike Muscala (ankle) are both listed as probable.
The Rockets opened as slight 2.5-point favorites with the total at 233.0 points and the Lakers at +115 money line odds, and that will be the fourth time this season Houston has been listed as a fave against the Lakers. The Rockets have won three of their last four games away from home, but they are just 4-5 straight up and 2-7 ATS in their previous nine outings on the road. The Lakers have dropped three of their last four games at home and are only 3-6 straight up and 2-6-1 ATS in their previous nine showings at Staples Center. The under has hit in seven of the Lakers’ last nine home games, while the over has hit in five of Houston’s last nine games on the road.
What’s at Stake?
The Lakers are in a really difficult situation and desperately need to beat the Rockets tonight. They will battle with the Clippers and the Kings for the playoff spot until the bitter end, and every game will be huge for LeBron James and his teammates. On the other side, the Rockets are surely feeling more comfortable than the Lakers, but it doesn’t mean there is not a lot on the table for Mike D’Antoni’s boys.
After the matchup with the Lakers, the Rockets will have the toughest possible road game Saturday night as they visit the reigning champions Golden State Warriors. The Lakers will also hit the road on Saturday to visit the New Orleans Pelicans.
James Harden is on fire this season, leading the league in points per game (36.6). The Beard has scored 30+ points in 31 consecutive games and he’s still counting. However, Harden will need more help from his teammates, and the Beard will have Brandon Ingram and LeBron James all over himself tonight. In his three meetings with the Lakers this season, Harden was tallying 44.7 points per game on 50.7% shooting from the field to go with 8.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists.
On the other side, the Lakers will need their best defense to slow down Harden and will have to speed up the tempo of the game if they want to land the Rockets. LeBron will attract the Rockets’ attention and it is a chance for Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram to step up and make shots. Kuzma is averaging 21.6 points per contest over his five appearances in February, while Ingram is posting 19.5 points per game on 54.6% from the field over his last ten outings.
The Rockets are scoring 114.8 points per 100 possessions (2nd in the league) on 44.6% shooting from the field (26th) and 34.8% from beyond the arc (21st) while taking 45.5 three-point attempts per 100 possessions which is the most in the league by far. The Rockets are making only 21.1 assists per 100 possessions, and the New York Knicks are behind them on the list. Houston is allowing 112.7 points in a return (25th in the league) on 47.6% shooting from the field (27th) and 34.2% from beyond the arc (6th).
The Lakers are tallying 107.8 points per 100 possessions (21st in the league) on 47.3% shooting from the field (7th) and 33.9% from downtown (26th) while making 24.0 assists (18th). On the other side of the ball, the Lakers are surrendering 109.0 points per 100 possessions (11th in the league) on 44.8% shooting from the field (6th) and 35.6% from beyond the arc (16th).
The Rockets have barely overcome the Lakers in their previous meeting, and I think the Lakers will finally outlast the Rockets on this one. The Lakers are playing in front of the home audience which should be an important factor, and they have enough defensive firepower to deal with the Rockets, so I’m backing the hosts at +115 money line odds. However, if you like to go with the betting trends, the Rockets are 13-2 straight up and 10-5 ATS in their previous 15 meetings with the Lakers.
The line on the totals has been set pretty high, as the bookies expect to see some up-tempo basketball tonight even though the Rockets are recording just 97.7 possessions per 48 minutes. On the other hand, the Lakers are averaging 103.3 possessions per 48 minutes. Also, all three previous H2H meetings this season were finished in the over, and the over is 10-2 in the last 12 H2H duels between these two foes. This one should be another high-scoring affair, so I’m backing the over.