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Lakers vs. Rockets Preview: No time to get comfortable

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The Lakers have looked like the better team in the series so far, but they know better than to underestimate James Harden and the Rockets.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets - Game Three Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

After losing the first game of their series against the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Lakers have won two consecutive games, the last of which was won by a margin of 10 points. If the Lakers win again on Thursday, they’ll take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series and be one game closer to clinching their first Western Conference Finals berth since the 2009-10 season.

It’s an exciting prospect to think about, for sure, but it’s not one they’re thinking about as a team — not because they don’t think it’s something they’re capable of, but because they don’t want to get too far head of themselves.

The Rockets took the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games in the first round and held on to win by just two points in Game 7. They’re a talented and scrappy team, and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel knows they’re only going to get scrappier now that they’re trailing in the series.

“Every time you lose a game in the playoffs, your group is super desperate,” Vogel said. “And if you lose two in a row, it just heightens even more. So, we know they’re gonna come out with a ‘backs against the wall’ mindset and really execute and play extremely hard on both ends of the floor and play with desperation. And we’ve got to make sure that we match that.

“What’s happened in the series so far is behind us. They’ve got an offense and some players on their team and a system that will never allow us to be comfortable, so we’ve got to bring the same desperation.”

The Lakers obviously don’t lack the talent to compete with the Rockets with LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the way for them, but their energy and effort has waned in Orlando, particularly to start games. Whether that’s a result of them not playing in a packed stadium or them feeling confident that their talent will carry them through to the finish line, they can’t afford to come out of the locker room flat-footed on Thursday.

The Lakers and Rockets will tip-off at 4 p.m. PT on TNT.

Notes and Updates

  • Dion Waiters has been listed as doubtful for Thursday’s game with a sore left groin. Anthony Davis (right rib contusion), LeBron James (right calf contusion) and JaVale McGee (sprained left ankle) are all probable.
  • Robert Covington is expected to suit up for the Rockets in Game 4, but Danuel House Jr.’s status is still up in the air. According to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN on Wednesday, the 27-year-old forward is being investigated for a “potential violation of campus protocol.” Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports that the violation in question was allegedly bringing a female coronavirus testing official to his room. House missed Game 3 for “personal reasons.”

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.