Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets
Line: Los Angeles -5
Pick: Rockets +5
All season long, pundits have made fun of the Lakers roster. Sure LeBron and Anthony Davis are great but, many have wondered if the team could win a title without an obvious third best player.
To this question, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has insisted it isn’t about one guy always but rather of hoping the collection of other talent on the roster could accumulate enough great games to make up for the lack of the main third guy. In practice, this strategy has worked to absolute perfection in this series.
In game two, Markieff Morris had his best game since god knows when and Rajon Rondo followed that performance up in game three with his best playoff game since he was a Boston Celtic.
A game that saw both Russell Westbrook and James Harden eclipse 30 points resulted in a loss for the team strictly because the Lakers got that third guy production.
This bodes well for the Lakers title hopes going forward and gives me more confidence in my overall pick of the Lakers to win this series. With that said though, I think this is the game where the Rockets role players explode like the Lakers have been.
Last game Houston managed “just” 30 three point attempts which on the surface sounds like a normal number. The thing is though, this Rockets team isn’t built for that number to be normal.
For them to get that similar bench production the Lakers have gotten, they need to shoot as many three’s as they possibly can. Part of the credit for this goes to the Lakers defence who in disguising a series of unique and different looks to confuse Harden, have been able to rotate in a fast enough way to take away as many three point opportunities for the Rockets as possible.
All this needs though is a quick adjustment from Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and his offensive game plan. D’Antoni is known for his offensive genius so in being given a day to dissect what the Lakers have been doing, will almost for sure institute a better plan to take advantage of how they’re playing.
There are only so many ways to play defence in basketball and if as a team you give away your hand by selling out to eliminate a star like Harden, it should open chances for the players in the back ends of the set to get great looks.
This should be especially possible with Westbrook seeming to find his game last game as well. Having him become the intelligent decision maker he was prior to the re-start is integral to this team extending the series.
Houston’s biggest concern in this game for me comes in the fact Danuel House seems almost a lock to not play. Without House, the rotation tightens that much more and raises the pressure on a Jeff Green or Austin Rivers to play well.
If this small ball lineup is going to work in the way the Rockets envisioned and lead them to a championship it’ll start tonight with finding a way to capitalize on the added space from the extra pressure on Harden. Much will be expected of Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, Robert Covington and the rest of the rotation.
The numbers do favour them to have an explosive game at some point. They did also favour Morris and Rondo to not shoot as well as they did though so who really knows?
This series may just me another edition to the list of ones the Rockets lost because the numbers failed them.