Preview: Lakers at Houston Rockets

The Lakers get a chance to build their first winning streak as they face the Houston Rockets

The Lakers (2-9) finally got their second victory of the season on Tuesday, winning on the road in Atlanta, 114-109.

On Wednesday, they get a chance to build their first winning streak as they face the Houston Rockets (9-2).

The Rockets have the second-best record in the NBA, a game behind the 10-1 Memphis Grizzlies.

The Lakers have the second-worst record, a game and a half ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers (0-10). They'll play without Ryan Kelly (hamstring), Wayne Ellington (personal matter), Steve Nash (back) and Julius Randle (leg).

Terrence Jones, who had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds in the Rockets' opening-night win over the Lakers, is out with a leg injury.

Key matchup

All-star guard James Harden is averaging 23.7 points a game for Houston, along with career-high averages of 6.9 assists and 6.5 rebounds.

Harden is also shooting a career-low 37.2% from the field and 27.4% from three-point range.

Through 11 games, Kobe Bryant is also at a career-worst 38.9% from the field while averaging 27.4 points, 3.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds.

Neither Harden nor Bryant have been known, in recent years, to put much energy into playing defense.

Bryant needs to get the best of the head-to-head matchup, although Coach Byron Scott might look to guard Harden with Wesley Johnson -- and Houston Coach Kevin McHale may choose to put Trevor Ariza on Bryant.

X-factor

The Lakers' need strong performances across the board, notably from Jeremy Lin and Nick Young, who made his season debut in the win on Tuesday.

The team's big men -- Jordan Hill, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Robert Sacre -- are especially vital against Houston center Dwight Howard, who is averaging 18.8 points and 11.3 rebounds a game while shooting 57.5% from the field.

Hill's jump shot has evaded him since a hot early start but he continues to give the Lakers second-chance opportunities with 4.8 offensive rebounds a game.

Boozer is shooting 50.4% from the field, providing the Lakers some offense, but his defense hasn't been especially impressive.

Davis is shooting 62.9% from the field and may be the team's best inside defender. Sacre practiced against Howard for a season, and perhaps that experience will help on Wednesday.

Outlook

The Lakers are a better squad with Young in the lineup, but winning on a road back-to-back against one of the hottest teams in the league is too much to ask for a team that has just two wins all season.

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus

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