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Lakers vs. Rockets Preview: L.A. kicks off playoff chase against surging James Harden

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The Lakers need any win they can get, and starting these next 25 games off with a win against James Harden and the Rockets would go a long way in helping their playoff chances.

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the home stretch. The Los Angeles Lakers have 25 games remaining of what’s been a roller coaster of a season, and kick off that slate against 2019 Most Valuable Player hopeful James Harden and the Houston Rockets.

After practice Wednesday afternoon, James said the Lakers have to accept the challenge of defending. He singled out Harden as a good place to start, saying that he’s scoring “100 points a game.” That’s somehow not all that inaccurate.

You’ve heard all the numbers about where the Lakers currently stand in the playoff chase, and what they likely have to do if they want to earn the franchise’s first playoff bid since both of Kobe Bryant’s achilles tendons were whole. In case you’ve been under a rock, the Lakers currently sit three games back of the eight seed, and probably have to go 17-8 the rest of the way to give themselves a chance at making the playoffs.

Is it wise to include a nationally televised game against a superior team in those 17 wins? Probably not, but if the Lakers do manage to pull off a victory Thursday night, that allows them to slip up elsewhere in their very tough remaining schedule.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, Clint Capela will likely be returning to the Houston lineup. This is completely anecdotal, but it really feels like if any team has a key player out for an extended period of time or acquires an important player, either that return or debut seems to take place really often against the Lakers.

No I’m not bitter at all. Why do you ask?

The Lakers will be without Lonzo Ball, and likely Tyson Chandler as well. Josh Hart and Mike Muscala are dinged up but both were able to practice — although Muscala was downgraded to “questionable” afterwards — so we’ll see about their availabilities. Everyone else on the roster should be fairly well-rested and ready for what feels like a pretty important game.

Update to everyone’s availability:

Tip-off for Thursday night is 7:30 PM PST, and the game will be televised nationally on TNT.

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