Lakers forward Metta World Peace gives chase with Rockets point guard Goran… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (35-20) host the Houston Rockets (29-25) at Staples Center.
1. Will the Lakers' various injuries affect them? There's plenty that's keeping Lakers trainer Gary Vitti busy these days. Kobe Bryant has worn a protective boot because of a left shiny injury. Pau Gasol has a sleeve to cover his aching left elbow. Andrew Bynum is having constant treatment on his sprained left ankle. Ramon Sessions has a pad to protect his sprained left shoulder and tape to protect his jammed right index finger. Metta World Peace has an unspecified ankle injury. Yeah, you get the point. Considering the Lakers have played four games in the last six days, it's fair to question whether the aforementioned injuries and fatigue could play a factor.
2. Kobe Bryant will look to light it up on Chandler Parsons. Within a three-game span, Bryant went from someone who couldn't buy a bucket to his normal self. So it's fair to presume Bryant won't struggle the same way he did when he scored 29 points on 10-of-27 shooting in the Lakers' 107-104 loss March 20 to the Houston Rockets. At that time, Bryant was mired a month-long slump where he averaged 26.6 points a game on 38.7% shooting. In the last three games, Bryant's average has balooned to 31.9 points pon a 61.9% clip. Something tells me Bryant will be eager to show Parsons that his defense had little to do with a poor shooting night.
3. Marcus Camby will give Andrew Bynum a challenge inside. Say what you will about Bynum's off-court attitude and recently lax defense. I've been one of many to do so. But it's indisputable that Bynum has remained explosive offensively, averaging a career-high 18.3 points on 58.3% shooting because of an array of moves. That ranges from back-to-the-basket turnaround jumpers, quick post-ups, effiicent drop steps into the lane for a variety of looks. Fortunately for the Rockets, they have Camby, who'll be equipped at least to make Bynum work harder for his points. In his last three games, Camby has averaged 9.7 points on 52% shooting, 12 rebounds (3.3 of them offensive), 2.3 steals, and 3.3 blocks.
4. Can the Lakers finally maintain a lead? The Lakers have blown double-digit leads in the last seven games, and there's no reason to expect they will suddenly change that pattern. The Clippers simply took advantage of the Lakers' reserves to open the fourth quarter. Last week, Oklahoma City simply proved the Lakers couldn't maintain their pace for 48 minutes. But the other blown leads featured the Lakers slacking off against sub-.500 opponents. Houston is currently slated for a seventh seeding in the playoffs, but they're hardly a team that sparks the Lakers' competitive juiices.
5. Can the Lakers sharpen their defense? The Lakers have conceded at least 100 points in five of thelpast seven games. The Lakers don't say this often, but they might miss Sasha Vujacic's presence tonight. Goran Dragic has been averaging 22.7 points on 62.5% shooting and 6.0 assists over his last three contests, and the Lakers currently have no one to give the Slovenian star an elbow.
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