Bringing ‘The Brow’ to Hollywood was just what the Los Angeles Lakers needed to return to prominence. After missing the playoffs and finishing with a losing record for six straight seasons, the front office decided enough was enough and acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans over the summer. That move has paid off more than any other this offseason as the Lakers are the best team in the Western Conference at 33-7, and they are set to blow by last year’s win total of 37 before the All-Star Break. Los Angeles is currently five games up on Utah for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and the Lakers are out to extend that lead on Saturday night in Texas when they face James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
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- Date and Time: Saturday, January 18, 2020, 8:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
- Opening NBA Odds: Check Back Later
- Lakers vs. Rockets TV Coverage: ABC
Houston is 9-4 in its last 13 games coming into Saturday night’s tilt with the Lakers. The Rockets have been an interesting team thus far in 2019-20. They can get up for any opponent, but they appear to have trouble staying motivated against lesser opponents. Six of their last seven losses have been to teams with losing records, and most of those teams are in the cellar of their division. Since December, Houston has lost to San Antonio, Sacramento, Detroit, Golden State, New Orleans, and Memphis. The Rockets have also hammered the Nuggets, Raptors, and 76ers over that stretch, highlighting a Jekyll and Hyde mentality.
If it weren’t for a four-game losing streak right before Christmas, the Lakers would be the best team in the NBA by a wide margin. They are 33-3 aside from that stretch, but that was a brutal run where they went on the road to face Indiana and Milwaukee before returning home to host Denver and the Clippers. The Lakers have won nine straight games since falling to the Clippers on Christmas, winning by double digits in eight of those nine.
This is the first of three meetings between these two teams this NBA season. While these are two of the league’s premier franchises, they haven’t had much of a rivalry in recent years as the Lakers were down while the Rockets were consistently challenging the Warriors in the Western Conference. That will change this year as Harden and LeBron James could meet in the postseason for the first time ever.
Harden is having the most Harden season of his career. After crushing the rest of the league in usage rate last year, he is somehow shooting just as much even with Russell Westbrook on the team. Harden is averaging 24.5 field goals and 12.4 free throws per game in 2019-20, and he is leading the league with a whopping 37.8 PPG. It’s not exciting basketball to watch, but it’s effective, so Harden and the Rockets continue to run this system.
Davis has been superb since joining the Lakers. He is finally starting to realize his potential, and he is one of the favorites to be named the NBA MVP at the end of the season. James is averaging 27.1 PPG and 9.4 RPG while being a menace in the paint on the defensive end with 2.6 BPG and 1.5 SPG. He leads the Lakers in all those categories, and Davis is sinking a dizzying 50.4 percent of his field goals.
The evolution in James’ play has been extraordinary. Many were skeptical that he would be okay with deferring to Davis, but he has lived up to his promise in the offseason. He has taken a back seat as a scorer to distribute the ball to his team, and James is leading the league with 10.7 APG. This team is a terror to stop when Davis and James are running the high pick and roll, and the Lakers will use that to wear down the Rockets.
Lakers vs. Rockets Score Prediction: Lakers 127, Rockets 115
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