The Lakers, with an 11-9 record, come back home after a 4-game trip to face the Houston Rockets, who have an 8-8 record. This is the third meeting between the two teams this season. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.
Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup.
As we dive into the holiday season, the Lakers received good health news upon their return to Los Angeles. Several players had their status upgraded as they head into Saturday’s matchup with Houston.
Here is the current injury report.
- Anthony Davis, dealing with left adductor/hip spasm, Jaxson Hayes, experiencing left elbow soreness, and Cam Reddish, with right groin soreness, are all listed as probable.
- LeBron James (left calf contusion). QUESTIONABLE
- Gabe Vincent (left knee effusion). OUT
Note that neither Rui Hachimura nor Jarred Vanderbilt is mentioned on the injury report, indicating that both are available and will play. Vanderbilt is set to make his season debut after dealing with bursitis in his left heel since the Lakers’ preseason opener on October 7th.
The Lakers are currently at their healthiest point of the season. If LeBron plays, the team will have its entire frontcourt rotation available for the first time this season. The impact on the starting lineup or the overall rotation is uncertain at this point. However, Coach Ham would likely prefer this kind of positive issue over the challenges faced during the recent road trip when the team was short-handed.
TIME TO MESH
Although the comeback of an almost full roster is excellent news, the reality is that it will take some time for both the players and the coaching staff to find their rhythm and come together as a team.
While many of these players have practiced together in training camp this year and have even played together in games this season or the last, figuring out how their skill sets complement each other and re-establishing the timing and togetherness that solidify through numerous in-game shared experiences doesn’t happen overnight.
The coaches will also require time to figure out which groups work best together and how the different combinations of three, four, and five players can effectively connect and execute on the floor in practical terms rather than just on paper. History teaches us that even the most well-thought-out plans and the sincerest intentions encounter obstacles that need to be overcome. Sometimes, revisions are necessary to steer toward the ultimate goal.
However, all of this must be balanced against the unforgiving passage of time and a season that doesn’t pause for anyone to reach their best potential. The Lakers have navigated through the initial 20 games with an above .500 record despite facing numerous injuries and ailments. While finding their rhythm swiftly may not be the simplest task now that a quarter of the season has passed, it remains an aspirational goal.
LAKERS VS ROCKETS, ROUND III
The Lakers and Rockets have each won one of their two previous games. The first game was a significant loss, with Anthony Davis sitting out. The second game resulted in a one-point win, with LeBron, Austin Reaves, and AD leading the Lakers to victory. In this game, Houston outshot the Lakers from deep, but the Lakers were clutch down the stretch to secure the win.
The lessons from the first two games suggest that the Rockets possess a strong resolve on both offense and defense, allowing them to stay competitive. On the offensive end, they boast enough perimeter talent to make shots, but they heavily depend on big man Alperen Şengün to generate effective offense from the post. Additionally, Şengün plays a crucial role in their pick-and-roll game by making decisive dives to the rim.
On the defensive end, the Rockets exhibit tenacious perimeter defense, with Dillon Brooks and Fred VanVleet disrupting the point of attack. Inside the paint, Alperen Şengün and second-year forward Jabari Smith Jr. leverage their combined size and length to cause disruption. If the Lakers rely too heavily on outside shots, they will play into the Rockets’ strategy of restricting paint touches. Therefore, the Lakers must create post-up opportunities for AD and driving lanes for LeBron and other perimeter players.
Nevertheless, the Lakers should not disregard three-point shooting and must be successful from the outside to maintain offensive balance. In the previous game against the Rockets, the Lakers made only six of their 29 attempts from beyond the arc. This situation required late-game heroics from LeBron and Reaves to secure the win. In this upcoming game, the Lakers’ shooters must perform better to achieve improved offensive balance and make progress against the NBA’s 6th-ranked defense.