PREVIEW: Rockets at Lakers- Jan. 16

Mar 9, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) drives against Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun (28) in the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. Houston Rockets won 139 to 130. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Rockets at Lakers- Jan. 16

The Rockets will try to avoid an 11th straight loss in the final game of a four-game swing through California when they take on the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time this season. Eight of the Rockets’ 10 losses on this skid have been by double digits, including Sunday’s 21-point loss to the Clippers, and only one came by five points or fewer.

Eye on the Lakers

Record: 19-24 (13th in Western Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 112.3 (20th)

Defensive rating (rank): 113.2 (17th)

The Lakers enter Monday’s game on a three-game losing streak, which is on the heels of a five-game winning streak under first-year head coach Darvin Ham. Much like the Clippers team they share an arena with, the Lakers’ struggles this season can be pointed to simply having trouble keeping guys on the floor. Only Russell Westbrook has missed fewer than 10 games out of their top six scorers. LeBron James has played in just 33 games, while Anthony Davis will miss his 16th consecutive contest with a foot injury. Another reason the Lakers find themselves on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture is due to a lack of shooting. Only three teams shoot worse from behind the 3-point line, with one of those teams being the Rockets.

Matchup to watch: Eric Gordon vs. LeBron James

He might be 38 years old and playing in his 20th NBA season, but LeBron James continues to play at an elite level. He enters Monday averaging 29 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists per game while shooting over 50% from the field, and he still gets to the free-throw line six times each night. The area James has really struggled at this season is his 3-point shooting, which is currently sitting at a career-low 28.3%. Gordon has been the guy Stephen Silas has used as his LeBron stopper when available, and Gordon’s physicality and experience help him at least hold up in that matchup. This could also be seen as an audition for Gordon, with the trade deadline less than four weeks away. If the Lakers decide to make something out of this season, Gordon could be someone they target.

What I’m watching for

Jalen Green will return from his suspension for leaving the bench area during Friday’s fourth-quarter altercation in Sacramento. He’s coming off a 27-point game against the Kings, but he scored 25 in the first half on 9-of-15 shooting before the Kings sold out to slow him down after halftime by blitzing every action. Green’s first half was disappointing when you consider the lofty expectations he set for himself with the way he finished last season, so the hope is Friday’s first half is a step in the right direction that could be a precursor to a strong final 39 games of the season. Green scored 32 points on 13-of-21 shooting last March against the Lakers.

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