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Lakers

Lakers focus on dealing with Rockets’ small-ball lineup

Lakers forward Anthony Davis tries to block a shot by Rockets guard Russell Westbrook during their game Feb. 7, 2020, at Staples Center.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis tries to block a shot by Rockets guard Russell Westbrook during a game Houston won on Feb. 7, 2020, at Staples Center.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Even as the Lakers prepared to face the small-ball-playing Houston Rockets on Thursday at Staples Center, there was no getting away from talking about the coronavirus outbreak and how it has affected the NBA.

When the Lakers learned that the Golden State Warriors had become the first team in the league to say it would play a game without fans inside Chase Center, it was not a shocking development.

The Warriors host the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday and made the decision to play the game without fans in the arena after an order from the San Francisco Department of Heath prohibited events with a gathering of 1,000 or more people.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s surreal,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “But it’s something that we knew was probably coming and it’s unfortunate and hopefully not long lasting.”

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The media was not allowed inside the Lakers locker room before or after Tuesday night’s game against the Nets at Staples Center as part of the NBA’s protocol to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The Lakers are bracing for playing home games without fans.

“It appears that way,” Vogel said. “But we’re taking it day by day, see how it progresses.”

As the conversation continued about COVID-19, Vogel pivoted to saying his immediate job is “trying to figure out how to beat the Houston Rockets with a strategy and a game plan and our disciplines.”

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The Rockets have gone all-in on playing small-ball basketball. They primarily play lineups without anyone over 6 feet 8. They rely on shooting three-pointers, taking a league-high 44.3 per game.

Houston has two of the best offensive weapons in the league in James Harden, who leads the league in scoring at 34.4 points a game, and Russell Westbrook, who is seventh at 27.5.

“Well, seven-footers shoot threes every game, every night, so it’s really not that different,” Vogel said of defending a small-ball lineup. “What’s different is you have two of the best scorers in the world in Russell and in James. So we have coverages in place that we can do a little bit better than we did last time. The biggest thing, though, is we have to execute better offensively. We were very careless with our turnovers, and we just got to have a better approach that way.”

While the Rockets defeated the Lakers the last time the two teams played here in Los Angeles, Houston had lost four consecutive games before beating Minnesota on Tuesday night.

“Obviously, they’ve been struggling as of late, got the last win,” Anthony Davis said. “We know the things that we have to correct since the last time we played them. But they’re a good team. I mean, they have two guys who can score at will. And then great role players around them to make shots. They made some tough shots against us last game, but it’s our job to make sure, especially coming off a loss, that we get the win tomorrow.”

Injury update

The Lakers said that LeBron James (sore left groin), Davis (left elbow) and Alex Caruso (bruised left hand) are all probable for the game against the Rockets. The Lakers also said Dwight Howard, who missed Tuesday night’s game because of an upset stomach, is available to play against the Rockets.


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