Things to watch in Lakers-Rockets game
Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (3-3) host the Houston Rockets (2-2) on Tuesday at Staples Center.
1. How will Kobe Bryant respond after a poor shooting performance? This storyline has two components. Lakers Coach Mike Brown and Bryant both maintained they felt fine with Bryant's shot selection in his six of 28 outing in the Lakers' 99-90 loss Sunday to the Denver Nuggets. They also made it clear that the torn ligament in Bryant's right wrist remains incredibly painful. Though many, including myself, strongly disagree with their analysis on shot selection, it matters more how Bryant actually responds on the court.
No doubt, he's had games where he's take a lot of shots. But for the most part, he's knows when to play aggressively and when to facilitate. Considering the severity of Bryant's wrist injury, it'd be a better approach on performing the latter.
2. The Lakers must exploit their size advantage. Whether he wants to admit it, Pau Gasol will surely feel motivated against the Rockets considering he almost joined them in a three-team trade that would've sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. But it honestly doesn't matter. The Lakers are primed for a great performance inside for two reasons. Gasol and Andrew Bynum have combined for 84 points on 35 of 55 shooting (63.6%) and 45 rebounds in the last two games. The Rockets also lack for size after Chuck Hayes' departure and Yao Ming's retirement. As promising as Samuel Dalembert has shown with the Rockets, he has no chance matching up with the Lakers' front line.
3. Josh McRoberts may remain sidelined. McRoberts' sprained big toe on his left foot he suffered last week against Sacramento apparently worsened enough to keep him out of Monday's practice. An MRI and CT scan Tuesday did not show any fractures, but the team lists McRoberts as day-to-day and will remain a game-time decision.
The Lakers still hold the advantage on the front court. But McRoberts' absence would likely create more minutes for reserve forward Troy Murphy. Both are instrumental on the boards, but Murphy plays more of a perimeter game, while McRoberts scores mostly hustle points.
4. Can the Lakers limit turnovers? If it sounds like a broken record, that's because it is. The Lakers have averaged 15.3 turnovers. The Lakers inability to handle the ball consistently largely led to two of their three losses against Chicago and Denver. That proved especially costly to the Nuggets, who scored 26 fast-break points off of them. Brown spent part of Monday's three-hour practices teaching drills to improve their transition defense so they're more prepared to get back. But minimizing the turnovers altogether will solve the problem even quicker.
5. Will the Lakers' energy improve? Brown also lamented the team's lack of energy on the second night of a back-to-back. Since the Lakers just completed six games in eight nights, it's possible their fatigue level will improve with a practice day in between games.
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant leaves behind Nuggets guard Danilo Gallinari, who missed a layup to tie the score in the final minute of the Lakers-Nuggets game Saturday at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / December 31, 2011