The 4-seed Houston Rockets and the 1-seed Los Angeles Lakers meet in the Western Conference playoffs’ semi-finals beginning on Friday night. The two teams met three times in the regular season, including a matchup inside the Orlando bubble, with the Rockets holding a 2-1 advantage in those contests.
Tipoff for Game 1 of the seven-game series is at 9 p.m. EST inside ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla. You can catch the game live on ESPN. According to oddsmakers, the Lakers enter Game 1 of the semis as a -6.5 favorite over the Rockets.
What to Know – Houston Rockets
It took seven games, but the Rockets prevailed in the opening playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Game 7 came down to the closing seconds with Houston escaping with a narrow 2-point, 104-102, victory to move on to the Lakers’ matchup.
Houston had three players score 20 points or more in game 7 against OKC on Wednesday. Eric Gordon and Robert Covington led the way scoring 21 points apiece. Covington added a team-high 10 rebounds. Russell Westbrook, who missed the first four games of the series, provided 20 points and 7 boards.
In the last meeting between the Rockets and Lakers, James Harden poured in 39 points and hauled 8 rebounds. Ben McLemore added 20 points, tying his highest scoring output inside the bubble. The Rockets won the game, 113-97, against a Lakers team that kept LeBron James out for rest.
What to Know – Los Angeles Lakers
The top-seeded Lakers dropped their opening contest against the Portland Trail Blazers, but it was their only loss of the series. After the loss, the Lakers handled the Trail Blazers with relative ease, with many of the games ended in a double-digit margin. The 4-1 series win has given the Lakers some much-needed rest with their last game being August 29th.
Anthony Davis led the way in Game 5 for the Lakers scoring a game-high 43 points. James chipped in 36 points while hauling in 10 rebounds and dishing 10 assists. Dwight Howard came off the bench to score 11 points and snag 6 rebounds, including 4 offensive boards.
Kyle Kuzma scored a team-high 21 points the last time these two squads met. Davis added 17 with three other Lakers adding 10 points apiece.
The Pick is In
The Rockets bettered the Lakers in two of the three matchups during the regular season and were one of the hottest teams entering the playoffs after going 6-2 inside the bubble and dropping the Memphis Grizzles in the play-in game. Getting Westbrook back has added an additional element to the Rockets team that is playing with a lot of confidence.
The Lakers are the top seed in the West and showcased that in the opening series’s final four games. When James and Davis are clicking, they are almost impossible to contain for opposing defenses. The Lakers are well-rested, but the Rockets should keep this one close. Take the Rockets +6.5 in the series opener.