The Lakers are now 3 games under .500 at 10-13. They have lost 3 in a row and 4 of their last 5 games, their lone win coming against the Bulls in what was a pretty unexpected performance considering how shorthanded they were and the fact they were on the 2nd night of a back to back.
The team, of course, remains shorthanded. Though the recent update on D’Angelo Russell is somewhat positive, he’s not likely to return until early next week. And the team is still without Nick Young and Jose Calderon for longer than that while Tarik Black is out at least against Houston with Larry Nance questionable to play.
None of that is good news. Not against a Rockets team which is playing very well of late. Houston has won 5 of 6, including a double OT victory in Oakland against the Warriors last week. That win snapped the Dubs’ double-digit win streak and showed how the Rockets can compete against the best teams through their high powered offense which is piloted by James Harden.
Harden is an MVP candidate and is a nightmare for any team to contain, but especially these Lakers. In the first matchup between LA and Houston, Luke Walton put Nick Young on Harden for most of the night and while Young battled hard he ultimately didn’t stop James from getting his numbers. Harden’s ability to get into the paint allowed him to set up teammates for good looks and his shooting ability meant there were no ways to shade or cheat on him without giving up a play he is more than capable of making.
Without Young available tonight, it’s unclear who Walton turns to now. Deng? Ingram? Does he break up his backup backcourt duo of Clarkson and Williams in order to have JC track the Beard? Harden is of such quality, but none of these sound like good solutions.