The last few games of the regular season are basically preseason games for championship-contending teams, and that was especially true of the game the Los Angeles Lakers played against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
The Rockets were missing 11 players on Wednesday, which is just two players short of the NBA’s roster minimum, not counting two-way players. Of those 11 players, three of them — John Wall, Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood — were regular starters.
The Lakers were also down three starters with Dennis Schröder, LeBron James and Anthony Davis all sidelined. Fortunately, the Lakers had just enough talent to come out on top — and when I say just enough talent, I mean just enough.
Thanks to a clutch shot from Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers were able to narrowly beat the Rockets 124-122. A loss would have locked them into the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. Kuzma ended the night with 19 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, a steal and a block off of the bench.
The Lakers also got another pair of strong performances from Andre Drummond and Talen Horton-Tucker. Drummond continued his tear against teams with below average starting centers on Wednesday, tallying 20 points, 10 rebounds and a block. In his last two games, he’s recorded a combined 36 points, 28 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Meanwhile, Talen Horton-Tucker had another game with at least 10 points and 10 assists, but this time as a starter, finishing with 22 points, 10 assists and the game-sealing steal. The role players are rounding into form at the perfect time, it seems.
With a win on Wednesday, the Lakers extended their winning streak to three games, but they still haven’t got out of the dreaded No. 7 slot in the Western Conference, and if the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers win just one of their remaining two games, the No. 7 slot is where they’ll stay.