Houston Rockets (32-18) at Los Angeles Lakers (38-11)
NBA: Thursday, February 6th, 2020 at 10:30 pm ET (Staples Center)
Line and Odds: Los Angeles Lakers -6.5 Over/Under: 238.5
Free ESPN NBA Picks Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets have decided to go in a different direction than past years. The Rockets organization traded away longtime center Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks in a four-team trade before the deadline. Houston acquired Robert Covington and Jordan Bell. It appears that the Rockets are making a commitment to “smallball” after trading their big man. Over the past 3 games, 6’5” 245-pound P.J. Tucker has started at center for Houston. Those 3 games have been good to Houston, as they are currently riding a 3-game win streak. They have home wins over the Dallas Mavericks 128-121, New Orleans Pelicans 117-109, and Charlotte Hornets 125-110.
The smallball experiment has worked so far, but for how long will it succeed? In general, the Rockets have won 6 of their last 8 games and they are playing well. Over the past couple of weeks, Houston has secured wins over fellow contenders Denver, Utah, and, as mentioned above, Dallas. The Rockets are currently tied for 4th in the NBA’s Western Conference standings with the Utah Jazz. Houston’s 32-18 record puts them 1.5 games ahead of the 2nd-place Dallas Mavericks for the Southwest Division lead.
Houston ranks 7th in the NBA in net rating, outscoring opponents by 4.1 points per 100 possessions. The strength of this Rockets team is their explosive offense, which is pretty on-brand for a Mike D’Antoni-coached basketball team. They are 2nd in offensive rating, putting up 114.0 points per 100 possessions. This offense is led by star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden averages 35.8 points per game while Russell Westbrook (who is questionable for this game) averages 26.4 points per game. Westbrook contributes 8.0 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game, while Harden puts up 7.3 assists and 6.5 rebounds per game. Defensively, the Rockets are just average. They are 15th in defensive rating, allowing 109.9 points per 100 possessions. They rank middle-of-the-pack in most defensive categories. For example, Houston is 17th in effective field goal defense. They allow teams to shoot an eFG% of 52.6% against them. They are 13th in defensive turnover percentage, but 22nd in defensive rebound percentage.
It’s a little difficult to know what kind of frame of mind the Los Angeles Lakers are in at this time. The loss of Kobe Bryant is still hovering over this team, fanbase, and franchise. The Lakers postponed a game early last week, because it would have been too much to handle for Lakers Nation. Last Friday’s tributes to Kobe in the first home game since his death were incredibly emotional and the Lakers ended up losing to the Trail Blazers 127-119. Players like Kyle Kuzma have had to wade through the trade deadline waters for the past couple of weeks as the speculation of Lakers management making impactful trades had grown louder. After a 9 game win streak from the end of December to mid-January, the Lakers have cooled off considerably, going 5-4 in their last 9 games.
However, there are still many things going for the Lakers right now. They have a record of 38-11, a record that puts them in first place in the Western Conference. The Lakers are 3.0 games ahead of the 2nd-place Los Angeles Clippers and 3.5 games ahead of the 3rd-place Denver Nuggets. They are 2nd in the race for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, 4.5 games behind the 43-7 Milwaukee Bucks. The trade deadline is over, so the Kuzmas of the world don’t have to worry about being traded anymore. Also, Los Angeles has dominated their last two opponents Sacramento (129-113) and San Antonio (129-102).
The Los Angeles Lakers are 2nd in the NBA in net rating, outscoring opponents by 7.5 points per 100 possessions. Los Angeles has been able to increase their net rating by being top 5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Lakers rank 4th in offensive rating, scoring 113.5 points per 100 possessions. They are 2nd in effective field goal percentage and 3rd in offensive rebounding percentage. Los Angeles’ offense is led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis. James averages 25.2 points per game but Davis actually averages 26.4 points per game. The Lakers also rank 4th in defensive rating, allowing 106.0 points per 100 possessions. They are top 10 in most defensive categories, including defensive effective field goal percentage, defensive turnover percentage, and defensive rebound percentage.
Cover The Spread 365 Betting Trends
Houston is 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games against the LA Lakers.
Houston is 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games on the road.
Houston is 9-2 SU in their last 11 games when playing on the road against the LA Lakers.
The total has gone OVER in 10 of the LA Lakers’ last 12 games.
LA Lakers are 14-4 SU in their last 18 games.
The total has gone OVER in 4 of the LA Lakers’ last 5 games against Houston.
ESPN NBA Scores Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
I’m taking the Houston Rockets at +6.5 in this matchup. I’ve really liked the way Houston has been able to play with their smallball lineup recently. They look like a team that’s playing with more offensive freedom. While Capela’s rim-protecting and rebounding is useful, it is important for all of the players on the floor to be an offensive threat from many areas of the court. Houston’s offense was already potent. Now, the Rockets’ offensive will be even scarier. The acquisition of Robert Covington also helps Houston, as he has the reputation of being one of the best defenders in the game. I don’t see Houston stopping L.A. when the Lakers have the ball, but I think Houston can score enough to stay within the 6.5 point margin.