Los Angeles Lakers game previews between December 5 and December 11, including games against: Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz.
The Lakers return from their road trip to three games this week at home and have lost five of their past seven. They have two tough games against Utah and Houston but two winnable games against Phoenix and New York. Los Angeles is on a two-game losing streak and has lost eight of their last eleven partly due to injuries and a tough schedule. Two wins are necessary this week to stay close to a .500 record.
Monday, 5 December 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Home
The Lakers face off against the suddenly hot Utah Jazz who have won five of their last six games. Gordon Hayward has been leading the team on offense with three consecutive games of 30+ points and is averaging 27 points, 5 rebounds, and, 3.6 assists in his last seven games. Big man Rudy Gobert leads the league in field goal percentage Even with Hayward and Gobert's offensive talent, the Jazz have been much better on the other side of the ball. They allow the least points in the NBA at 94.8 points per game thanks to Gobert who averages the third-most blocks per game. Utah has been playing excellent basketball, and they are doing this without George Hill who has been hurt for a good part of the season. Hayward has been on a tear recently, so the Lakers have to limit his damage and force other players to score. With Hill out, the Jazz have a few players that can create their own shot.
Wednesday, 7 December 2016 at 08:00 PM ET Away
The Rockets are another team that has been hot as of late as they have won eight of their last ten. Unsurprisingly, James Harden has been the focal point of the team and is averaging 28/11/7 on the season. Harden lead the Rockets to an impressive 14-7 record and is firmly in the MVP conversation thus far in the season. Houston had a massive victory against Golden State in a double overtime thriller on Thursday. Harden had a triple-double, but Ryan Anderson was key in the victory as he poured in five threes en route for 29 points. Eric Gordon has been a great addition to Houston as the guard has been excellent of the bench.
Harden will get his points, but like Hayward, the Lakers have to force other players to score. The tricky thing about guarding Harden is that not only is he an excellent scorer but he is a great passer. The Rockets shoot the most three-pointers in the league and will try to push the pace so the Lakers can not get trapped in a long distance contest. They need to feed the ball to the big men to slow the game down.
Friday, 9 December 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Home
The Lakers face off the Suns in a game between two of the youngest teams in the league. With a 6-14 record, the Suns have had a disappointing start, but that is mostly expected for such a young and raw team. Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker have been the leading scorers with 19 a piece. When the Lakers played the Suns at the beginning of November, Booker scored 39 points. Los Angeles won the game, but it was a lot closer than it should have been. The Suns struggle on defense as they give up more than 113 points per game, so the Lakers will be able to score but their defense needs to step up if they want to win. With Brandon Knight and Alex Len on the second unit the Suns have one of the better benches in the league, so the Lakers will have to be locked in. Lou Williams has been on a tear recently, and I expect him to continue his hot streak against a weak defensive team.
New York Knicks
Sunday, 11 December 2016 at 09:30 PM ET Home
As of Tuesday, the Knicks are on a three-game winning streak, and it looks like the team's recent additions are starting to gel. Carmelo has been putting up points as expected, but thanks to the emergence of Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony has less of a load to carry than normal. Porzingis, only in his second year, has made a huge leap on what was a great rookie season. Knicks fans have to be ecstatic that Derrick Rose has stayed healthy thus far in the season (knocks on wood). Rose is averaging 17 points and shooting his best percentage in six years. The Knicks have a lot of talent and should be a tough out in the East as long as the team stays healthy.
With only Brandon Jennings being the only relevant player coming off the bench the Lakers will be able to take advantage when the second units are deployed. They can not let Carmelo and Porzingis both go off and score 30+ plus points otherwise it will be a long night for Los Angeles. The Knicks struggle on the defensive end, so the Lakers will put up a lot of points. I expect Julius to have a solid game against the Knicks big men. If the Lakers have a good defensive night, they will come away with a victory.