Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives with the ball past Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets during the game at Toyota Center on November 7, 2013 in Houston, Texas. The duo will meet again on January 8, 2014.
Having lost eight of the last nine games, the Los Angeles Lakers are in a dark place right about now.
A win on Wednesday against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets would not get them out of the darkness, but it would help. For all the recent questions about poor defense, lack of effort and constant losing, 48 minutes against Houston would go a long way to winning back fans’ hearts.
The manner in which Howard left the Lakers hanging ensured that this game means something more.
The Lakers have few highlights this season, but beating Howard’s Rockets on a last second 3-pointer by Steve Blake is probably top of that list. Blowing out the Los Angeles Clippers on opening night is probably the only other honorable mention after 35 harsh games.
For a season that has been so difficult for Lakers fans, a win on Wednesday night in Houston would help. It may not cure the disease, but it would serve as a bit of morphine to dull the pain. The fans still watching during these dark days deserve that.
Looking at the Rockets, Houston has lost two of its last three games. The Rockets last played on Friday, so they are will rested against a short-handed Lakers team on the second night of a back-to-back. However, the Lakers are 3-1 on the second night of back-to-backs this season when both games are on the road, including the win in Houston earlier in the season.
These day, the Lakers are struggling to stop anyone at the rim. Over the past five games, the Lakers have allowed an average of 52.4 points in the paint per game. Tuesday’s loss featured the Lakers giving up 58 points in the paint, and that is not even their worst display in that category over the past two games.
With Howard and Harden, the Rockets will look to attack the Lakers in the painted area, and the Lakers’ resistance against Houston should be the deciding factor. The Lakers need to play defense to win.
Against Dallas and Denver, the Lakers started the same starting lineup in back-to-back games after 10 consecutive games with new starting lineups every time out. Kendall Marshall is averaging 15.7 points, 12.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game since entering the starting lineup three games ago. Pau Gasol is averaging 21.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.7 blocks over those same three games. Jodie Meeks is averaging a team-high 21.7 points per game since Marshall became a starter. Over the last three games, the Lakers have given up an average of 115.3 points per game.