Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets are set to meet for the Western Conference Semifinals. A lot of people think the NBA champion may come out of this series, so this is must-watch television for hoops fans all over the world. Obviously, making a prediction about this series is quite a difficult task.
LeBron James has been on a mission since day one. The King is determined to lead the Lakers back to the ultimate stage and won't let anything stand in his way to another Larry O'Brien trophy.
James Harden, on the other hand, knows that his legacy is on the line this time more than ever. It's time to silence the critics and knocking down the Lakers will certainly look pretty well on his resume.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets: Storylines
Lakers and Rockets have faced off 223 times in the regular season throughout the course of NBA history. The Lakers hold a 138-85 lead in that series but it's not that lopsided when we take a look at the playoffs.
The Lakers have won 20 out of the 35 playoff meetings they've had thus far. Notably, the Lakers beat them in 7 games in the 2009 Western Conference Finals the last time they clashed in the postseason.
Now, however, the Lakers have a huge advantage in terms of rest. They haven't played since Saturday 29 as they knocked down the Blazers in 5 games, while the Rockets had to go to a Game 7 vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Los Angeles Lakers: Biggest Strengths And Concerns
The biggest elephant in the room for the Los Angeles Lakers has to be LeBron James' recent performances. The King hasn't been as sharp offensively as he's usually since the restart of the season, although he delivered in a big way in his team's last two games.
Anthony Davis and LeBron James make the best duo in the league and it's not even close. Davis dominates the paint like few men had ever done it and also has the ability to put the ball on the floor, while the King is one of the greatest playmakers ever.
The Lakers' duo holds a clear advantage down low, as the Rockets are vastly undersized and focus 90% of their game in the perimeter. PJ Tucker and Robert Covington will have their hands full vs. the Brow.
However, the Lakers' support cast has let a lot to be desired. They're all streaky shooters that can go ice cold in the blink of an eye and they'll be needing a lot of three-pointers to keep up with the Rockets' high-octane offense.
Houston Rockets: Biggest Strengths And Concerns
Whenever you have two superstars like James Harden and Russell Westbrook on your team, you'll be in a prime position to win. They're two of the most offensively talented guards in the history of the game and they clearly have a strong rapport.
The Rockets' fast-paced offense can demolish teams in a matter of seconds. They can climb their way back from a double-digit deficit in four possessions and it's pretty hard to keep up with that kind of run-and-gun offense.
All Rockets' players have a green light to shoot from beyond the arc and they're perimeter defense has been outstanding thus far. They're the ultimate 3-and-D team and are just unstoppable when their shot is falling.
Then again, both Harden and Westbrook must take better care of the ball. Russell has looked out of control at times and has really hurt his team's chances. Also, they have a long history of underperforming in the playoffs, and once again, they give up too many inches in the paint.
Los Angeles Lakers
Dion Waiters: Migraine/Headache, Day-to-day
Rajon Rondo: Back, Day-to-day
Luc Mbah a Moute: Knee, Out indefinitely
Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets: Predictions And Odds
Oddsmakers are disrespecting the Houston Rockets right now. They enter the series as huge underdogs with +460 odds to beat the Lakers, who are given -670 odds. That seems way too lopsided, especially if you consider that the Rockets took 2 out of 3 from the Lakers this season.
The Lakers should advance to the Western Conference Finals. It's championship-or-bust for them this season, as they know Anthony Davis is set to become a free agent and LeBron James isn't getting any younger.
Then again, they should have plenty of trouble getting past the Houston Rockets, especially if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green continue to shoot as poorly as they've done it. There's just no way they can keep the pace with Harden, PJ Tucker, Robert Covington, Danuel House, Jeff Green, Austin Rivers, and Ben McLemore shooting 50+ triples per game.
This is when LeBron James takes his game up a notch but with Avery Bradley opting out of the season, there's no one that can keep both Westbrook and Harden in check. Also, the Lakers' offense has looked pretty bad at times in the bubble, and that's why we believe Houston will take them to 7 games.
Result: Lakers 4-3 Rockets
|Los Angeles Lakers||-670|
* Odds via DraftKings
How To Watch NBA Free Online Or Live Stream Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets?
Game 1: Fri, Sept 4 Houston vs. Los Angeles, 9:00 p.m. ET (ESPN), NBA League Pass.
Game 2: Sun, Sept 6 Houston vs. Los Angeles, 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC), NBA League Pass.
Game 3: Tues, Sept 8 Los Angeles vs. Houston, 9:00 p.m. ET (TNT), NBA League Pass.
Game 4: Thurs, Sept 10 Los Angeles vs. Houston, TBD (TNT), NBA League Pass.
Games 5-7: TBD (If necessary)