James Harden attempts to drive around Metta World Peace. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers (8-9) visit the Rockets (8-8) on Tuesday night in Houston. The Lakers topped the Rockets, 119-108, when the two teams met on Nov. 18 at Staples Center.
All five Lakers starters scored in double figures, led by Dwight Howard (28) and Kobe Bryant (22). Bryant notched his 18th career triple-double as the Lakers shot a scorching 54.1% from the field.
The Rockets were led by Chandler Parsons' 24 points on eight-of-10 shooting. James Harden added 20.
Houston is much better at home (6-3) than on the road (2-5). The Lakers have been struggling recently, and have won just one of five on the road.
With a win, the Lakers would leapfrog the Rockets in the Western Conference standings.
Bryant versus Harden again is the marquee matchup. Bryant is averaging a league-leading 27.3 points a game. Harden is fifth at 24.1.
When Harden shoots well, the Rockets typically win. Harden has shot 31.8% from the field and 26.8% from three-point range in eight losses. In victories, he's a dominant 52.8% and 40%, respectively.
Bryant is more efficient from the field at home (50.4%) but he scores 29.2 points a game on the road (at 45.1%). The Lakers all-star guard is scoring three fewer points per game (26.5) at Staples Center.
Parsons has been a force for the Rockets, averaging 15.9 points a night on 48.4% shooting from the field and 42.9% from three-point range. He torched the Lakers in their last meeting, and if he hits another eight-of-10 shots, Houston is going to be very hard to beat.
It seems the deciding factor more often than not for the Lakers is free-throw shooting. It's not one player specifically (although it really is) but a statistical category. Can Howard hit from the line? When he can't, teams aren't shy to send him there multiple times (often intentionally).
The Lakers seem to respond after a loss, and the Rockets play a fast-paced game where defense appears to be an afterthought. Given the need for a win, the Lakers should be able to get their second victory on the road.
That said, the Rockets are a dangerous club and the Lakers will not have an easy night.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.