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Lakers get fourth try at a winning streak, hosting Houston Rockets

Lakers get fourth try at a winning streak, hosting Houston Rockets
Rockets guard James Harden drives to the basket against Lakers guard Marcelo Huertas during a game Dec. 12 at Toyota Center in Houston. (Scott Halleran / Getty Images)

The Lakers (4-21) have a fourth chance to build their first winning streak this season, hosting the Houston Rockets (12-14) at Staples Center on Thursday night.

The Rockets recently defeated the Lakers handily on Saturday, 126-97, although the Lakers were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, at the end of an eight-game road trip.  Jordan Clarkson also missed the game with a sprained ankle.

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Clarkson and the Lakers are healthy.  Houston rookie Sam Dekker is out with a back injury.

Key matchup

Kobe Bryant played well in the loss to the Rockets, scoring 25 points on nine-of-16 shooting, while dishing six assists with seven rebounds.

Where the Lakers struggled most was on the defensive side.  James Harden led all scorers with 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting.

Bryant starts for the Lakers at small forward, likely matched up directly against Trevor Ariza.  Harden and Bryant will guard each other occasionally but necessarily often.

X-factor

The Lakers could have stomached Harden's 30 points, had they not allowed Marcus Thornton to add 18 off the bench, along with 11 from Donatas Motiejunas.

Dwight Howard (18 points and 12 rebounds) and Clint Capela (11 and 10) both were strong as well for the Rockets.

The Lakers need Julius Randle to play well.  He struggled to score seven points in Houston, shooting just three of 11 from the field (although he did lead his team with 10 rebounds).

Clarkson will presumably guard Harden.  His return pushes D'Angelo Russell to the bench and will likely keep Marcelo Huertas off the floor for most (if not all) of the game.

Outlook

The Lakers did not give the Rockets a great showing in Houston on Saturday.  Expect a much more competitive game, with the Lakers establishing their first winning streak of the season.

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

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