A matchup of stars…on the bench. The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers face off for the third time this season on Saturday night. The first two matchups featured mostly healthy rosters and were electric. Will the Lakers finally break through with a win in the season series?
The Houston Rockets are really having issues with the injury bug this season. They will still be without point guards Chris Paul and Brandon Knight in this game. They are also going to be missing their dominant center, Clint Capela.
The good news is they may get Eric Gordon back who has been in and out of lineups with a knee issue. James Harden is the best player in the league right now, but he needs all the help he can get.
The Lakers are also struggling with injuries to their key players. Lebron James (groin) and Rajon Rondo (hand) have both been out for a while. Rondo had surgery on his hand and has been cleared for full contact. Lebron was recently seen taking long-range jump shots. Neither of them will be playing in this game though.
The spread for this game opened at Rockets -8, but has since been bet down to -7. The Rockets won the first game this season in LA 124-115. The second game in Houston, the Rockets won 126-111.
The early line move could be investors looking to fade a tired and struggling Rockets team. The Rockets have lost three of their last five, including a home game to the Brooklyn Nets and a road game to the Orlando Magic. There may also be some love for the Lakers youngsters who stole a road game in Oklahoma City on Thursday.
The total opened at 227.5 and has since moved down to 226 and there are even a few books with 225.5. Six of the Lakers last seven games have gone under this total. Perhaps early bettors are playing based on that.
It was not too long ago that James Harden stunned the Warriors on their own home court. Now his team has lost their defensive tenacity and given up 110 points or more in six of the seven games since then.
James Harden has been magnificent, but he is not getting help from the rest of the injury-riddled roster. The high volume of ISO plays for the star has to be wearing on him at least on the defensive end. His numbers look gaudy, but it’s just not a sustainable style of play in a long NBA season.
The young Lakers may have finally found their groove. They have won their last two games after losing six of thee first nine games after the injury to The King. The most recent game was a win against the Thunder as ten point underdogs.
On one hand, the Rockets need a win. Additionally, the Lakers got their big win. Are they in for a let down spot? The situational spots seem to favor the Rockets, despite the team’s recent poor play.
The stats show this should be a pretty fast paced game. The Lakers are playing the seventh fastest pace over their last three games and the Rockets are at 11th.
The scoring should also come easily with the Rockets having a top four offensive efficiency at home. The Lakers are an average road offense, but the Rockets are a bottom ten home defense when looking at defensive efficiency.
Both defenses have been poor at limiting points in the paint all season. The Lakers give up 50.3 and the Rockets give up 53.1 compared to the league average of 48.3.
In fact, the Lakers struggle in limiting easy buckets. They give up above the league average in fast break points, second chance points, and points off turnovers as well.
The Lakers may struggle on defense if they are giving up easy points. The Rockets are a very effective team when shooting from deep, 35 percent on the season on over 40 attempts per game. If they can get penetration into the paint, the kick outs to open shooters will be a serious problem.
The Lakers are walking into a let down spot after their big win. The Rockets need to string some wins together after recent struggles. Despite this, I cannot back this team right now. Their defense is not playing well enough to protect leads. I will not have a play on this spread.
I do however, like the total in this game. Despite the market moving the number down, I will be on the over. The team’s fast paces over their recent games should provide plenty of shot opportunities. The Rockets strategy right now is to outscore their opponents. I will be on the full total and the Rockets team total over.
For player props, I like what I have seen out of Lonzo Ball over his last three games. He has scored 13 or more in every game and had at least 14 assists and rebounds. I will be taking his points over and points, assists, rebounds over.’
Rockets team total over
Lonzo Ball points over
Lonzo Ball points, assists, rebounds over