The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets are two teams that seem to be headed in vastly different directions. The reigning champs have started the 2020-21 season in fine form. The Lakers are off to a 6-3 start after a 120-102 destruction of the Rockets in Houston on Sunday night. The Rockets, meanwhile, are just 3-5 after losing three of their last four games overall.
Houston has a lot of new faces in the mix this season, and it was always going to take time for them to gel. A first-time head coach (Stephen Silas), as well as yet another new running buddy for James Harden (John Wall), meant an early-season adjustment period was likely. The Rockets have looked disjointed on the defensive end of the floor, while the offense hasn’t found much of a rhythm, either.
The same two teams will tangle in H-Town again tonight. LA has been installed as a five-point road favorite in a game with an over/under of 222 points.
Lakers in Flying Form
Sunday’s game between these teams was never particularly competitive. The Lakers outscored the Rockets in three of the four quarters on their way to an easy 120-102 victory. LA knocked down better than half of their shots from the field while winning the rebounding battle, 49-43. The Lakers also forced the Rockets into committing 21 turnovers, seven of which came from Harden.
As expected, Houston had absolutely no answer for Anthony Davis. Despite dealing with a groin injury, Davis wound up scoring 27 points on efficient nine-for-12 shooting in 30 minutes of action. Houston’s frontcourt of Christian Wood, PJ Tucker, and DeMarcus Cousins just doesn’t have the combination of length, strength, and athleticism to slow Davis down over the course of a game.
the Spurs have always been one step ahead of the other teams in the NBA, and now they have unlocked the secret of how to stop Anthony Davis. pic.twitter.com/dq8yBaBNUa
So, there’s no reason to expect Davis to have much trouble in the exact same matchup tonight. And, if Davis doesn’t have his way offensively, the Lakers can always lean on LeBron James to pick up the slack. James had a relatively quiet game by his standards on Sunday, finishing with a modest line of 18 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds in 30 minutes of work.
The fact that the Lakers didn’t need either of their stars to completely carry them while still managing to win the game without much stress certainly bodes well for their chances of success in the same spot tonight. Montrezl Harrell (18 points), Talen Horton-Tucker (17 points), and Kyle Kuzma (13 points) all played well off the bench. The three easily combined to outscore the entire Rockets bench, 46-35.
Harden led the league with an average of better than 34 points per game last season, but he hasn’t been the same guy so far in this campaign. Harden is averaging “only” 26 points through his first seven games of the year. Part of his lack of aggressiveness could be due to the fact that he’s discouraged with the Rockets’ path and asked the team for a trade. Another aspect could be the installation of a new offense under Silas that is far less focused around Harden dominating in isolation.
While Harden’s scoring is way down, his distribution is way up. Harden is quietly leading the NBA with an average of 11 assists per game thus far. He’s racked up at least nine dimes in each of the last four games, and he hasn’t finished with fewer than eight in any game yet this season.
However, Harden may have to step up his scoring if John Wall sits out tonight. Wall is questionable for this game as he reportedly deals with a migraine. If he’s out, the Rockets’ offense will put even more of a spotlight on Harden and Christian Wood, while Eric Gordon may be thrust into a starting role if he suits up.
What’s the Best Bet?
The Lakers look to be in a favorable spot here. Both teams have had the same amount of rest after playing on Sunday. While the Rockets are allowing some fans into the arena, it’s pretty safe to assume that they aren’t enjoying much of a home-court advantage at this point. A couple of thousand Houstonians were in attendance when they got their doors blown off on Sunday night by these very same Lakers.
The injury news isn’t favoring the Rockets, either, with both Wall and Gordon listed as questionable. Houston has some sketchy depth to begin with. While we know Harden is fully capable of carrying a massive load when he’s motivated, it’s fair to question his motivation levels right now. Wall missing this game wouldn’t certainly lead to a big scoring night from Harden, even if that’s just what the Rockets would need.
I like the Lakers to cover in this spot. LA should have its full complement of rotation players healthy for this game, and the five-point spread is certainly attackable. They may not win by as big of a margin as we saw on Sunday, but the Lakers to cover still looks like a solid bet.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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