Preview: Lakers at Houston Rockets

Preview: Lakers at Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard says he understands why Lakers fans might be upset with him. (Pat Sullivan / Associated Press)

The Lakers (2-3) have played three solid games at home this season (2-1) but have been blown out twice on the road (0-2).

Visiting the 4-1 Houston Rockets may not be the answer to the Lakers' traveling woes.

Coach Mike D'Antoni said Wednesday that he'll go big against Houston with either Jordan Hill or Chris Kaman starting alongside Pau Gasol.

Hill is the better rebounder but isn't as skilled offensively.  Kaman is the better shooter.

Key matchup

Whether D'Antoni puts Gasol, Kaman or Hill on Howard, the Lakers could have their hands full with the veteran center.

Gasol has had success in the past with his height. The bigger issue is what Howard can do on the defensive end, protecting the basket for Houston.

Given the Rockets' shooting depth, double-teaming Howard is typically a bad idea.


Of course D'Antoni may choose to send Howard, a notoriously poor free-throw shooter, to the line if he or the Rockets are having offensive success.

The Lakers need Gasol to be a significant inside presence against Houston.


James Harden is arguably the best shooting guard in the NBA, at least with Kobe Bryant out with an Achilles' injury.

His ability to hit the three-point shot and get to the line makes him a difficult cover.

If the Lakers choose to give extra attention on the floor to Harden, that just opens up a long list of shooters like Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi.

Where the Lakers have struggled most is in the backcourt with starters Steve Nash and Steve Blake both shooting no higher than 30% from the field.


If the Lakers' shooters aren't hitting, they could be in quick trouble against the Rockets.

Even a lead isn't safe against Houston as their outside game gives the Rockets a chance to make up a double-digit deficit in little time.

Omer Asik and Howard are both high-level defenders but are still learning how to play together, given neither has much range offensively and both struggle at the line.

The battle Thursday won't quite be as Earth-shattering as Howard's return to Staples Center on Feb. 19 should be -- presumably long after Bryant's return.

The Lakers are a significant underdog Thursday but it would be quite a big win if they manage to get it.


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