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Lakers vs. Rockets Game 5 Preview: Time to end this

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The Rockets are facing elimination from the NBA playoffs tonight, which the Lakers know makes them dangerous.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets - Game Four Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Los Angeles Lakers lost Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets, there was a lot of talk about them potentially being in trouble, or the Rockets being a bad matchup for them. Since then, all L.A. has done is win the next three games in increasingly dominant and convincing fashion.

Will that trend continue on Saturday night, when the Lakers face the Rockets for Game 5 and get their first opportunity to send them home? Veteran shooting guard Danny Green says it won’t be easy.

“Elimination games are hard regardless of the round,” Green — a 10-year veteran looking for his third championship — said after practice on Friday. “It’s the hardest game to win. A team has nothing to lose, they’re fighting for their lives, so they’re gonna claw, scratch and do everything they can to win a basketball game.”

The Rockets already showed how dangerous they can be when they’re cornered like a wounded animal, cutting the Lakers’ 23-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 4 to just 5 points before the Lakers locked back in and closed it out. Still, it was an example that they can’t get cocky or overconfident. This Rockets offense is dangerous, and L.A. needs to lock in for closer to the full 48 minutes.

“As you saw (Thursday) night, they never gave up, even though they were down pretty big and we were up pretty comfortably, they gave themselves a chance,” Green said. “We’ve got to do a better job of staying mature and keeping our foot on the gas and not letting up.”

The Clippers dropped their own elimination Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, showing the danger of these contests even if they seem like a foregone conclusion. Their choke job also made it possible for the purple and gold to buy themselves a little extra rest if they win this one. The good news is — for those rooting for the Lakers, at least — that they at least sound like they aren’t assuming the Rockets will just lay over and pack their bags to leave the bubble.

“Next game is going to be even harder, because they don’t want to go home. Nobody wants to go home. They’re in this bubble for a reason: They want to win a championship too, and they believe they can,” Green said. “We’ve got to do a good job of jumping them on them early like we did, and then keeping that same force going throughout the game.”

The Lakers did that for about 40 minutes in Game 4. They’ll have to do it for the full 48 in Game 5 to make sure they can wrap this one up.

Notes and Updates

  • The Lakers’ injury report for Game 5 is the same as it was for Game 4.
  • The Rockets’ injury report lists Danuel House as “out” for personal reasons. Those reasons? That he’s left the NBA Bubble after getting caught breaking quarantine protocol. He will miss the rest of Houston’s run, no matter how much longer it lasts.
  • Anthony Davis started at center for the Lakers last game. He explained afterwards that his oft-critiqued reticence to doing so is mostly a regular season thing. In the playoffs? He just wants to win.

Game 5 begins at 5:00 p.m. PT on Saturday night. It will be broadcast on ESPN, and you can also sign up to watch it on fuboTV here.

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