NBA Pick: Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Houston Rockets (0-1, 0-1 ATS) vs. Los Angeles Lakers here (0-1, 0-1 ATS)
When: Saturday, October 20th, 2018 – 10:30 pm ET
Where: Staples Center – Los Angeles, California
By: Kyle Cash, NBA Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: HOU -3.5/LAL +3.5
Last Night in the NBA
Considering we are only four days into the NBA season, it seems odd to think that we might have seen the two Conference Finals matchups on the same night, but if you paid attention to Boston vs. Toronto or Golden State vs. Utah, you might have been gazing into a crystal ball. Elsewhere, Giannis shined again and that guy in New Orleans continued to make his case for the MVP (the guy I’m talking about, of course, is the beardless Nikola Mirotic). What a start this week has been to the NBA season!
If you’ve been paying attention to my daily NBA thoughts, then you know that I have already read the tea leaves and predicted the outcome of LeBron’s first week: an unceremonious loss to the Portland Soccer Moms followed by a mic-dropping ass-kicking of the vaunted Houston Rockets. Apparently, Vegas has yet to catch on to the LeBron shenanigans (LeBron-igans? Le-nanigans?) and has the Lakers as a slight 3.5-point underdog, with the total set at a blistering 235 points. Strap in, folks.
Houston, We Might Have a Problem
I am not saying that Houston is not going to be a good team. I am just stating that they might not be the championship contender that everyone had them pegged for to start the season. Getting your asses handed to you by Anthony Davis is one thing – allowing Nikola Mirotic and Elfrid Payton to be key contributors to that beat down is another thing entirely.
Everybody knows about Houston’s isolation-heavy offense led by the World’s Greatest Traveler James Harden. Houston will not fail to get buckets this season – no D’Antoni team has ever been diagnosed with that issue. The thing that propelled the 2017-18 Rockets to within one win of a Finals appearance was their top-5 defense, and subbing in James Ennis for Trevor Ariza might not be a simple one-to-one swap. While it has only been one game, I always tend to go against Chris Paul’s teams early in the season, as he tends to play himself into game shape as the year progresses. If Harden is unable to do that thing where he is completely unstoppable and drops a 60-point triple-double, Houston might find themselves closer to the Kings than the Warriors in the Western Conference standings.
La La Land
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Magic Johnson. LeBron James. According to a horribly photo shopped tweet sent out by the Worldwide Leader in Sports the other night, those are the only three great Lakers that have ever existed in history. Let’s just ignore the five championships that have come in between now and Magic’s special announcement, not even to mention the guy who preceded all of these people and is on the NBA’s logo. Way to go, ESPN.
With my personal opinions of LeBron in the hierarchy of NBA history aside, it is genuinely exciting to have the Lakers back squarely on the map. The NBA is more fun when the Lakers and the Knicks are relevant, and while the latter does not look promising, adding LeBron to the mix of LA’s young (and overrated) stars gives the league a bit of extra juice.
In terms of personnel, the Lakers are a mess. Lonzo and Rondo are repetitive and not helpful, Ingram and Kuzma still look a year away, and LeBron’s Tonto to his Lone Ranger is a 24-year old sophomore in Josh Hart. It might take a while to iron out the wrinkles of their scheme, but for now, we can at least expect the Lakers to not shoot 7-for-30 from behind the arc again this game and put up points. I fully expect a healthy whistle for LeBron and Co. tonight, and an offensive explosion is their only hope of hanging with the Rockets tonight.
Quick Match-up Notes
- LeBron James is 9-7 lifetime against James Harden in the regular season
- Last season, the Houston Rockets touted the best away record in the NBA
- The Rockets and the Lakers allowed the 2nd and 3rd most points in the NBA so far in their first games
The LeBron vs. Harden duel is not one that comes readily to mind when thinking about NBA individual rivalries, but Harden’s record against King James’ teams speaks for itself. The Lakers right now are more of a Backyard Basketball team than a professional one, and it is hard to see how this team is going to be anything other than a minor blip on the radar of the Western Conference playoff picture. The Rockets, on the other hand, just had a bad case of the Melos on Wednesday night, and D’Antoni’s offense should not have any trouble running up the tally Mon-Stars style against a discombobulated Lakers defensive front. Unfortunately for Houston, the Lakers employ the ultimate NBA trump card in LeBron James himself, and while it is hard to imagine Houston being 0-2 to start the season, I refuse to believe that the Lakers will lose their first home game with all of the Hollywood elite in the stands. As I said before, this outcome is written in the stars. Don’t shoot the messenger.
Final Score Prediction:LA Lakers 130 – Houston Rockets 126