Dec 27, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) reacts during the second half against the Houston Rockets at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
The Rockets will play the third game of a six-game homestand when they host the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night. The Rockets ended a three-game losing streak with Monday’s upset win over the Boston Celtics and have now beaten the top three teams in the Eastern Conference at Toyota Center this season. Alperen Sengun is listed as questionable to play after missing Monday’s game with a left groin strain.
Eye on the Lakers
Record: 34-35 (T-8th in Western Conference)
Offensive rating (rank): 113.0 (23rd)
Defensive rating (rank): 113.2 (13th)
The Lakers arrive at Toyota Center having 9-of-13 games following Tuesday’s 123-108 win in New Orleans, but they’ll face the Rockets without LeBron James, who has missed the last eight games with a right foot injury, and Anthony Davis, who has a right foot injury of his own. Of the 10 players that got minutes for the Lakers when they beat the Rockets on Jan. 16, only Dennis Schröder, Troy Brown Jr., Wenyen Gabriel, and Max Christie will be available to play on Wednesday.
Matchup to watch: Kevin Porter Jr. vs. D’Angelo Russell
Russell was enjoying the most efficient season of his NBA career in Minnesota, and he’s carried that over since being traded to the Lakers before the deadline. In six games, the Lakers’ new point guard is averaging 19.2 points on 53% shooting while converting on 47% of his 3-point attempts, and he’ll be the Lakers’ number one option on Wednesday with James and Davis unavailable. Russell played against the Rockets four times as a member of the Timberwolves and scored 22 points per game on 50% shooting, which includes a 30-point game on Jan. 23 inside Toyota Center. Porter missed that game, and Russell scored just six total points when defended by Porter in two games this season.
What I’m watching for
Alperen Sengun was a surprise scratch on Monday night. He tweaked his groin against the Bulls on Saturday, and the team listed him as probable after he went through Sunday’s practice, but he did not feel good enough to play after taking part in a walk-through on Monday afternoon. The Rockets started Jabari Smith Jr. at center in his absence, and it could be a glimpse into how they want to play in the future. The Rockets have not been good offensively with Smith at center, mostly because they can’t shoot, but they’ve been excellent at the defensive end of the floor, holding teams to 111.8 points per 100 possessions per Cleaning the Glass, which would be fifth best in the NBA for the season. The sample size is incredibly small, but lineups with Smith at center allow the Rockets to be more versatile at the defensive end, whereas with Sengun, they can only play one way, which is playing drop coverage on pick and rolls.