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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:55 PM

Lakers at Rockets Preview

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Lakers at Rockets - 8:35 PM EST, ABC

Betting Odds: Houston -2, 232
Provided by DraftKings (IN, NJ & PA only)
Odds subject to change

The Lakers (33-8 SU, 22-18-1) look to build on the Western Conference’s top record as they open a challenging five-game road trip that continues in Boston on Sunday and features games against the Knicks, Nets and 76ers next week. Their visit to Houston coincides with the beginning of ABC’s Saturday night NBA schedule and will feature the home team looking to avoid what would be just their second three-game losing streak of the season.

The Rockets (26-14 SU, 19-21 ATS) open the day percentage points ahead of streaking Dallas for the Southwest Division lead but would be just the No. 5 seed, which is not at all where they envisioned being at the season’s halfway point considering they remain the No. 3 choice to win the Western Conference (6/1) in odds put out by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. The Lakers have been co-favorites with the Clippers all season to win both the West (8/5) and NBA title (5/2).

Portland came into Houston and pulled off a 117-107 upset on Wednesday, holding James Harden to 13 points, his lowest-scoring output of the season. Afterward, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni attempted to downplay any turbulence but then changed course, stating that some guys on the team need to get over themselves and worry about the name on the front of the jersey instead of the back. A victory over the Lakers could certainly serve as a cure-all, but with Oklahoma City arriving on Sunday and Denver visiting to close out the Rockets’ homestand on Tuesday, there’s potential for a freefall too. Houston is 14-5 at the Toyota Center and had won five straight (4-1 ATS) there prior to the hiccup against the Blazers, so it’s understandable that it has been placed in a favorite’s role for this matchup.

Harden leads the NBA with a 37.2 scoring average but finished just 3-for-12, taking his second-fewest number of shots this season while also wrestling with foul trouble. Russell Westbrook helped pick up the slack with another triple-double, but the Rockets need Harden to reassert his dominance. He’s topped the 40-point mark three times this month and has scored at least 40 16 times this season.

This will be the first time these teams are meeting since last February, when LeBron James and Brandon Ingram combined for 56 points and 25 rebounds in a 111-106 victory at Staples Center. Harden scored 30, but the dynamic has obviously changed with Russell Westbrook replacing Chris Paul as Harden’s chief running mate and Anthony Davis joining the party. It remains to be seen if he’s going to come back for this Saturday night showcase considering he’s sat out the past four games with a glute injury after suffering a hard fall against the Knicks on Jan. 7. ESPN is reporting that he’ll be a game-time decision after warming up and seeing how he feels. Kyle Kuzma has been starting in his place, helping L.A. to a 3-1 record.

Los Angeles lost to the Magic on Wednesday, snapping its nine-game winning streak in a 119-118 loss against a shorthanded team led by 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz. L.A. had been 6-2-1 against the number prior to the surprising setback. The Lakers suffered through a four-game losing streak from Dec. 17-25 but otherwise haven’t dropped consecutive contests. They may not close as an underdog, particularly if the betting public suspects Davis will play, but they opened in that role for just the sixth time all season and come in 5-1 SU/ATS in games where they’re either a pick’em or catching points. The setback came at Milwaukee on Dec. 19. Houston has yet to be a home underdog in 2019-20.

The Rockets have owned the Lakers of late, winning five of six, which includes a pair of overtime victories. In all, L.A. has only beaten Harden-led Houston five times in 22 games since the beginning of the 2013 season. L.A. will look to reverse that history and should have Alex Caruso (face/concussion scare) and Rajon Rondo (finger) in the mix after some concern that they would have to sit out. It remains to be seen what happens with Davis. Kuzma and Dwight Howard, who famously flamed out alongside Harden with the Rockets, would get increased time on the court if Davis can’t play. The ‘over’ has prevailed in four straight games involving the Lakers, but the ‘under’ is on a 7-3-1 run in Houston’s games. The opening total (232) is the highest seen in a game involving L.A. since a Nov. 29 win over Washington. The ‘under’ is 2-0 when the number closes over 230 in Lakers’ games.

Best of the Rest

Suns at Celtics (-7/224.5), 7:05 p.m. ET: Boston didn’t lose three straight in the season’s first few months but is in danger of having that happen for the second time in 2020 if it can’t avoid an upset here. Phoenix forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. remains out due to a concussion, while rookie backup Cam Johnson is listed as questionable. The Celtics have dealt with injuries for the past few weeks but got Jayson Tatum back from a bout with knee soreness and list guard Marcus Smart (ankle) and center Daniel Theis (knee) as probable. Wing Jaylen Brown sat out Thursday’s 128-123 loss at Milwaukee with a thumb injury. Boston has beaten the Suns in eight of the last 10.

Trail Blazers at Thunder (-6/221), 9:05 p.m. ET: Oklahoma City welcomes old friend Damian Lillard back into town for the final time this season after losing 102-99 when the teams played back on Oct. 30. They’ve split a pair of games at Portland’s Moda Center since then, but Lillard loves playing at Chesapeake Energy Arena, where he had 23 points and 13 assists in the first meeting to build on ending the Westbrook era in OKC with his playoff heroics last April. The Thunder snapped four-game losing streak in the series with a 108-96 road win on Dec. 8 due to Carmelo Anthony shooting an abysmal 4-for-18. He’s been playing much better of late and is undoubtedly looking forward to some redemption. The ‘over’ is on a 4-0 run in Thunder games.

Kings at Jazz (-9/222), 9:05 p.m. ET: Utah looks to bounce back after seeing its 10-game win streak come to an end in New Orleans in an OT loss on Thursday. The Jazz have still won 15 of 17 (12-4-1 ATS) and haven’t lost in Salt Lake City since Dec. 9, a span of six games. The Kings lost 113-81 the first time they came through town (Oct. 26) but picked up a 102-101 win for a little revenge on Nov. 1. Mike Conley will make his return from a hamstring injury for Utah, so rotations will certainly be different. Sacramento lists guard Bogdan Bogdanovic as questionable but the expectation is that he’ll play. Forward Nemanja Bjelica has had a great week and will also suit up. Center Richaun Holmes won’t. The ‘over’ has prevailed in the last three games involving Sacramento.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]

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