Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:49 AM
Game 1 Predictions & Odds: Rockets vs. Lakers
- September 4, 2020
- By Michael Crosson
Chris Paul and Thunder left everything on the floor at the HP Field House in Orlando during their Game 7 thriller with Houston to conclude the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs, but ultimately the Rockets were able to escape with a 104-102 victory behind some late-game defensive heroics from James Harden to cap off their series finale in the bubble.
Los Angeles has fallen victim to the media’s “panic button” consistently throughout the course of the league’s restart as Lakers were the lowest-scoring team in the NBA’s eight re-seeding games, then dropped their playoff opener to the Blazers by failing to put up 95 points in their Game 1 loss.
LeBron got his guys playing like the championship-caliber team they were designed to be for the remainder of the series though, rattling off four straight wins to put away Lillard-less Portland.
- Matchup: Western Conference Game 1
- Expert Picks: Vegas Insiders
- Venue: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
- Location: Orlando, Florida
- Date: Friday, Sept. 4, 2020
- Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN
- Bet: BetMGM | BetRivers | FanDuel | PointsBet | All
Russell Westbrook and the Rockets posted a 2-1 regular season record against the Lakers. (AP)
Western Conference Semifinal Schedule
All games to be played on one day of rest
- Game 1 - Friday, Sept. 4
- Game 2 - Sunday, Sept. 6
- Game 3 - Tuesday, Sept. 8
- Game 4 - Thursday, Sept. 10
- Game 5 - Saturday, Sept. 12
- Game 6 - Monday, Sept. 14
- Game 7 - Wednesday, Sept. 16
Betting Odds - Rockets vs. Lakers
The Lakers open Game 1 of this Western Conference Semi-Finals matchup as a seven-point favorite over the Rockets, which is the largest margin of victory we have seen the oddsmakers predict in a matchup between Houston and LA this year.
The ‘over-under’ for this contest has been set at the lowest total we have seen for a Rockets-Lakers game all year (OU 226.5), as Vegas is clearly expecting these teams to ramp up the intensity on defense for Game 1 of their playoff series, after scoring an average of 235.5 points per game in their matchups prior to the bubble.
Houston is 2-1 SU against the Lakers this season, yet still sit as +240 underdogs to knock of the top-seed in the West on Friday night.
- Spread: Los Angeles -7
- Money-Line: Los Angeles -290 Houston +245
- Total: 226.5
- Updated Series Price: Los Angeles -400, Houston +320
Rockets vs. Lakers Head-to-Head
2019-20 Regular Season
- Aug. 6, 2020: Houston (-3.5) 113 vs. Los Angeles 97, Under 227.5
- Feb. 6, 2020: Houston (+6.5) 121 at Los Angeles 111, Under 239.5
- Jan. 18, 2020: Los Angeles (+3.5) 124 at Houston 115, Over 235
The Rockets have technically won two of their three matchups with the LAL this season, but it’s important to take that with a grain of salt, as LeBron James and Anthony Davis each missed a game against Houston this year, dramatically changing the landscape of each contest.
In the only “full-strength” matchup between Houston and LAL this year, the Rockets won 121-111 cashing ‘under’ tickets (OU 239.5), but it was no thanks to Harden, as he went 3-of-10 shooting and just under 17% from downtown in the victory.
Instead, the spotlight shined on Russell Westbrook as he went for 41 points on over 60% shooting, while attempting just two 3-pointers in the win. The concern regarding the Lakers all year has revolved around how they will attack a dominant scoring-backcourt defensively in a playoff series, after putting all of their eggs in Lebron and AD’s baskets.
This series against the Rockets should serve as a great test for LAL’s defensive limits.
Rockets vs. Lakers
How to Handicap Game 1
(SU-Straight Up, ATS - Against the Spread, OU - Over-Under)
Houston Betting Outlook
Inside the Stats
- Bubble: 8-7 SU, 7-8 ATS, 5-10 O/U
- Playoffs: 4-3 SU, 3-4 ATS, 3-4 O/U
Westbrook has been licking his chops all year for this series against the Lakers, as it might become apparent very soon why Houston was willing to give up so much to acquire the former-MVP from the Thunder this past off-season.
Russ has averaged 38 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6 assists per game against the Lakers this year, and while some of that can be attributed to LeBron and AD sitting out meaningless regular season games, a good portion of it can also be attributed to the LAL’s lack of defensive depth in its backcourt.
Harden has been cold shooting the ball in his past few games for Houston, going 1 for 9 from deep on 26.7% total shooting in the Rockets Game 7 win.
I expect that to lead to Houston into going to Westbrook early and often in this series, exposing the Lakers guard tandem defensively like they did in the regular season.
Los Angeles Betting Outlook
Inside the Stats
- Bubble: 7-6 SU, 4-9 ATS, 9-5 O/U
- Playoffs: 4-1 SU, 3-2 ATS, 6-7 O/U
Things are not all peaches and daisies for Frank Vogel’s team, as the Lakers essentially went 2-1 in their series with the eighth-seeded Blazers, considering Damian Lillard was injured in Game 4, leading to an LA cakewalk in the final two games following his departure from the bubble.
When this “Super-Team” was assembled, there were concerns about the Lakers lack of scoring depth beyond their superstars and rightfully so, as they have straight-up not shot the ball well in the HP Field House, a whopping average of 43.8% in the bubble (FG% - 19th out of 22 following NBA restart).
Where they are lacking on offense though, has been made up for on the defensive side of the ball as the Lakers have ranked 4th in defensive rating in the playoffs so far this year (104.1).
The Rockets are able to shoot through good perimeter defense on their good days though, unlike the Lillard-less Blazers, so Los Angeles is going to have to figure out a way to kick its offense into high-gear for this series, because there is no doubt Houston is going to light up the scoreboard for the next week or so.
- SF Luc Mbah a Moute: Knee - Game Time Decision
- PG Rajon Rondo: Back - Game Time Decision
Rajon Rondo is yet to suit up for the Lakers in the Orlando bubble, but Vogel said on Wednesday he is “hopeful” to get the point-guard back for LA’s Game 1 tilt with the Rockets, which would give LeBron and company some much needed depth at the guard position if he is able to return to the lineup on Friday.
Game 1 Best Bet Picks
I am not doubting that LeBron will somehow find a way to win this series for his team and advance to the Western Conference Finals, but this feels like one of those games where the Lakers get caught off guard and potentially drop one, similar to how they did against Lillard and company in Game 1 of the previous round.
I’m going to fade LA here and roll with Houston +7, as I think we will see a Laker come-back effort come up just short in Game 1, but never want to bet against LeBron SU in the playoffs.
Score Prediction: Rockets 116, Lakers 114
Series Best Bet
The Rockets are just a ticking time-bomb on offense that could explode at any time as they lead the league in 3-point attempts/conversions and have the firepower to keep up with any given team on any given night. That being said, the Lakers have King James and I have an enormous amount of faith he will find a way to ensure his team is the one squaring off against the Clippers in the Western Conference Finals next round.
The Rockets likely won’t go down quietly in this series, but to say this series is going seven games feels crazy to me. Give me the Lakers in 6.
Series Prediction: Lakers Win 4-2 (+320)
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