Los Angeles Lakers: Playoff preview vs Houston Rockets

Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals.

With the Houston Rockets squeaking by against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers finally get to their opponent for the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

This highly-anticipated matchup has been on the radar for NBA fans around the world as Russell Westbrook and James Harden go up against LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The regular-season matchup between these teams ended 2-1 in the favor of the Rockets with LeBron missing one game and Anthony Davis missing another.

Here is what to look forward too in this intense matchup between the one seed and fourth seed of the western conference.

Alex Caruso’s defense on Harden and Westbrook               

Going into the series vs Portland much was made about how the Lakers would handle two scoring guards who have their way with most of the league. Besides a late flurry in Game 1, Caruso and the Lakers defense held the two-headed monsters in check with Damian Lillard shooting 40% from the field and 39% from three while CJ McCollum shot 44% from the field and 37% from three.

Caruso never quits on plays and has active hands on defense, which is crucial when guarding crafty scorers. According to Second Spectrum, Alex Caruso is currently holding opposing All-Stars to 32% from the field. The stats and eye test back up Caruso and it will interesting to see what he can do against the Beard and Brodie.

Anthony Davis vs Houston’s frontline

Coming off of a dominant series vs Portland, Anthony Davis will be looking to carry that momentum into this matchup with Houston. The one issue that plagues Anthony Davis is intent on trying to play bully ball vs smaller defenders.

In today’s NBA, the refs are more likely to call the offensive foul if you make a strong move into the defender’s chest and AD has a habit to fall victim to the bait.

The loss that Anthony Davis did play in resulted in the situation happening and even though AD finished with 32 points 13 rebounds and 3 blocks, he’s overaggressive to post up resulted in costly turnovers.

Hopefully, AD has learned and decides to attack off of face ups and PNR situations with LeBron or Caruso handling the ball. With almost little to no rim protection expect Anthony Davis to eat.

LeBron James establishing his dominance early 

Against Portland, there was a sense that LeBron was not attacking the rim as he should in the first two games of the series. Especially with the TrailBlazers sticking Gary Trent Jr on LeBron most would expect LBJ to attack from the start.

Initially, LeBron tried to get KCP and Danny Green into rhythms which is the correct call when LeBron can turn in it whenever he wants but the Rockets pose a different threat.

LeBron will have to come out like he did in games 3-5 in the Trail Blazers series and set the tone from the beginning that nobody can stop him. Houston’s rim protector is Robert Covington on most occasions which means LeBron should be going to the rim whenever he wants too.

Shooter staying calm and ready

At the start of the Trail Blazers series, the Los Angeles Lakers outside shooters couldn’t hit the rim if their life depended on it and looked to be the Achilles’ heel of this team.

Eventually, KCP, Danny Green, Markieff and Kuzma found their rhythms in games 2-5. Although KCP was the only one from that group to shoot 40% from the three during the Portland series and cannot be the only reliable shooter from deep.

Houston relies on protecting the rim by committee and will most likely test the Lakers outside threats to see if they can make them pay. It will be crucial to see Danny Green to get going early in the series so those lanes open up for LeBron and AD.

Kuzma’s emergence on both sides of the ball

Kuzma has entered the bubble a new man with an actual commitment to the defensive end and a willingness to not rush his offensive opportunities. This comes as a welcome site to Laker fans as Kuzma is crucial to the Lakers running their best lineup which includes Kuzma as the small forward.

The Los Angeles Lakers need Kuz to continue fighting on defense and making those timely shots to advance against a tough opponent in Houston. So far Vogel has deployed Kuzma on different stars in the bubble and Kuz has faired well against them but Westbrook and Harden have proven to be different beasts, which means Kuz has to be on his A-game all series long.

Things we have learned from the NBA Playoffs. dark. Next

It should be a fun series for the outside world but will be very intense for Laker fans watching and should be one of the best series in the bubble.