It feels like roughly 37 years ago that Mike D’Antoni was getting fired as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, while Magic Johnson was praising the Lord above for his dismissal. Somehow only around six years later, it’s D’Antoni who is coaching a title-contending Houston Rockets team, facing off against L.A., which got considerably better because Johnson resigned embarrassingly.
Houston has had a pretty weird season as they try to slide Russell Westbrook into something similar to Chris Paul’s old role alongside James Harden. Lately, though, it’s been a bit of a struggle. They’ve lost two straight and have only gone only 5-5 over their last 10.
Seriously: Things don’t sound great there.
“The Lakers will bring a bevy of problems—LeBron’s brilliance, Davis’ freakish talents, and a rejuvenated Dwight Howard—but Houston needs a win over the Lakers in the worst way possible. Their collective spirit hasn’t been right for quite some time now.” https://t.co/mpoQcMrs83— pickuphoop (@pickuphoop) January 17, 2020
Still, anytime you face Harden — especially while as shorthanded as the Lakers might be — you have to get up for the game. Anthony Davis will likely be a game-time decision (he’s listed as questionable) and given the way Houston likes to attack the rim, the Lakers will need anybody capable of deterring them when they get there.
“Obviously James is a guy who can get you 40, 50 points pretty easy. Then you add Westbrook, who is dynamic going to the basket, finishing around the paint, getting rebounds and getting assists. Those two guys are very tough to stop,” Lakers center Dwight Howard told reporters after practice on Friday.
“Then they have a lot of shooters,” Howard continued. “They have bigs who rebound and run the floor with us. They have a really good team, I just think if we come out, play our brand of basketball [and] dominate the paint, we should win.”
Davis has missed the last four games with a bruised gluteus maximus, and while the Lakers consider his return more of a day-to-day thing, that specific injury can be tough to come back from, given the centralized location of the pain and how it can limit an athlete’s movement. The Lakers gave the latest update on he and his teammates on Saturday morning:
The Lakers say that Rajon Rondo (fractured right ring finger) is out tonight. Alex Caruso has been upgraded from probable to available to play. Anthony Davis remains questionable.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 18, 2020
If Davis can’t go, JaVale McGee and Howard will again be asked to carry an outsized load. To this point, while Davis has been sitting, they’ve done what they’ve needed to do, but again, given the type of shots Houston prefers and their personnel, it’ll be a tough task to continue that trend.
The Lakers have only gone through one losing streak so far this season. If they want to avoid that second such stretch, LeBron James will have to set a better tone than he did in the Lakers’ 119-118 loss to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. If James can carry that burden offensively and the Lakers can defend decently even with Davis out, they’ll have a pretty good chance of taking care of business.
Tip-off for the game is scheduled 5:30 p.m. PST, and it will be televised nationally on ABC.
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