Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers Picks
The Los Angeles Lakers (28-29) are just outside of the playoff hunt, as they host the 5th place Houston Rockets (33-24) Thursday night. The Lakers hope for a better second half of the season and health will play a significant role. We saw Lebron James miss a career-worst 18 games with a groin injury, as the Lakers are "privately a little concerned" according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. It remains to be seen if Lebron will pick up his intensity and propel this team back into the playoffs, as he did last year in Cleveland. Vardon writes. For what it's worth, LeBron said he felt "great" at the All-Star game on Sunday. And James is averaging 23.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 11 assists since returning from his groin injury. Houston is a small favorite in this game.
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Lakers With Ball Returning
The Lakers will welcome back Lonzo Ball, as he is perhaps the second-most important piece of this team. Magic Johnson left the trade deadline without dealing any of his players. Ball, Kuzma, and Ingram were all included in trade discussions with the Pelicans in order to acquire Anthony Davis, but nothing went through due to the fact that New Orleans was asking for a king's ransom. Ball will have the duties of guarding both Chris Paul and James Harden, as the second-year point guard out of UCLA is making a name for himself on the defensive side of the ball. Ball leads the Lakers with 1.5 stpg, as his initial timetable was 4-6 weeks when he was dealing with the ankle injury. Had he not gotten cleared before Thursday's game the Lakers would have just rolled with veteran guard Rajon Rondo.
Rockets Struggle on Road
The Rockets have gone 13-15 on the road this season and want to continue riding the hot hand of James Harden in the second half of the year. Player health has been a major bug for the Rockets this season, as they were without Chris Paul for a majority of the year. Clint Capela (thumb) returned to practice on Tuesday and is expected to take the court against the Lakers on Thursday. Harden is having another spectacular season leading the league in scoring (36.6 ppg). The next closest is Paul George who is averaging 28.7 points. During Harden's streak of 31 games in which he scored at least 30 points, the Lakers faced him twice and lost both times. The Rockets have gone 3-0 against the Lakers this season and are averaging 129.3 points in each contest. Harden has had scoring performances of 50, 48 and 36 in those three meetings.
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Rockets at Lakers Prediction 02/21/2019
It always helps when you get two of your best ball-handlers back in the lineup, as LeBron is tied with Rondo for a team-high 7.6 apg. James is still the best player in the league averaging 26.8 points and 7.7 rpg, and will try and slow down the MVP candidate James Harden. Kyle Kuzma had stepped up big time in LeBron’s absence, as he is second on the team in scoring with 19.1 points per game. We’re rolling with the Lakers in this game and expect LeBron to get this team back in the playoff hunt starting with a win over Houston.