The Houston Rockets are fighting for their playoff lives, sitting on the precipice of falling out of the top-eight in the West – though an upset in their last game helped their cause. The Los Angeles Lakers have grabbed a firmer grip on their once-slipping Pacific Division lead, and they are making a move toward locking down a top-three playoff seed in the West bracket. A very determined Rockets team will look to improve its playoff odds when they seek another road upset Friday night by visiting the Lakers. This is the third and final meeting this season, with each team winning at home – Houston took a 107-104 decision in the most recent meeting March 20. Here is a breakdown of what to expect from each team, plus my final score prediction on the game to help you with your NBA picks tonight.
Houston Rockets (29-25) @ Los Angeles Lakers (35-20), 10:30 p.m. ET
The Rockets have alternated wins and losses in their last seven games, but are coming off a surprising 99-93 win at Chicago Wednesday night that snapped a three-game road losing streak and opened a four-game road trip. Houston currently sits in a tie for seventh in the West (with Denver ), just one game back of Dallas for sixth but one game ahead of Phoenix and Utah . The Rockets are one of the better offensive teams in the league (ranking ninth with 98 ppg), but is a bit deficient on the defensive side, ranking just 20 th with 97 ppg allowed. The Rockets have been without starting point guard Kyle Lowry (infection) for the last month, and he is not expected back until perhaps the last week of the season.
While the Rockets have been good offensively, the Lakers have prided themselves on their defense this year. Los Angeles has won four straight games, the latest a 113-108 win over the Clippers can pushed the Clips to two games back in the loss column for the division lead. Though the team has gained some momentum, there is a concern – the Lakers were one of the top-10 defensive teams in the league, but have given up 100 or more points five times in the last seven games (3-2 in those games). The Lakers have won their last three home games (four if you count the Clippers game) after losing the previous three – however, they are 23-5 at home overall this year (behind only San Antonio for best home mark in the West).
A quick look at the NBA odds shows the Lakers favored by 6 points at home, while the over/under has been posted at 195.5 points. Houston hasn’t reached 10 wins on the road yet this year (in 26 games) and the Lakers own the third-best home record in the league (behind only Miami and San Antonio ). On paper, this does not look like it will go well for the Rockets. However, Houston has been very competitive of late without Lowry, and of course it has playoff positioning to consider. After beating Chicago , a win in L.A. would boost the teams’ resume and playoff chances heading into winnable games at Sacramento and Portland . The Lakers, though, seem to getting into their “playoff mode” at this time of year, and with a chance to lock down the division and a No. 3 playoff seed while at home, don’t expect Kobe Bryant or the Lakers to take the night off. Houston will battle, but the Lakers are too much at home.
Final Score Prediction: Lakers 100, Rockets 95