The Houston Rockets (8-8) have won four of their last five games. Their only loss during this stretch was at Oklahoma City. Houston has also won five in a row at home. Tuesday night, a desperate Los Angeles Lakers (8-9) team comes to visit the Houston Rockets.
The Lakers are a dismal 1-4 on the road this season, but a team of Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, and Pau Gasol should not be affected by the paint on the hardwood. This season, the Lakers appear to lack the mental motivation to fight for wins unless they are absolutely cornered.
On Sunday, the Lakers lost to the Orlando Magic. After the game, the players all felt the sting. They were embarrassed on their home floor. Only two games prior, the Indiana Pacers pulled off a similar upset.
After the Pacers game, the Lakers responded with one of their best performances of the season—a 122-103 thrashing of the Denver Nuggets. After Sunday’s loss to Orlando, the Lakers have that same type of motivation.
Since Mike D’Antoni took over the team at 5-5, the Lakers have dropped below .500 three times. The previous two times, his guys have responded and won big.
The Lakers and Rockets met on Nov. 18, and the Lakers won 119-108. Coach D’Antoni had not yet taken the bench, but he had held practices prior to that game. Howard was the star on that night, pulling down 13 rebounds to go along with his 28 points. Howard shot 6-12 from the free throw line, but the Rockets did not employ the "ack-a-Howard" strategy.
After "hack-a-Howard" seemingly worked for the Magic on Sunday, several teams around the NBA will likely send the Lakers’ center to the free throw line until he improves on his season average of 46.5 percent from the charity stripe.
Coach D’Antoni said he would not take Howard out of the game if an opponent applied the strategy. "[Howard]'ll make foul shots, he makes them in practice and he’ll get through this," D’Antoni said after Sunday’s loss to Orlando.
Whether it is ugly with Dwight Howard making free throws or pretty with the Lakers scoring on the break, the Lakers need a win Tuesday night in Houston. Otherwise, this will turn into a long three games in four nights.
Game Notes: Pau Gasol is sitting out tonight's game against the Rockets with tendinitis in both knees. Robert Sacre was recalled from the D-League and may even see minutes. Antawn Jamison is expected to start. Also, Chris Duhon is expected to start with Darius Morris returning to back-up duty.