Sunday NBA Playoffs Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Rockets vs. Lakers Game 2 (Sept. 6)

Sunday NBA Playoffs Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Rockets vs. Lakers Game 2 (Sept. 6) article feature image
Credit:

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Anthony Davis (left) guarded by James Harden.

  • After a Game 1 blowout loss, the Lakers are 5.5-point favorites in Game 2 against the Rockets.
  • Can LA find an answer for James Harden and the Rockets' stellar 3-point shooting?
  • Raheem Palmer previews Game 2 and gives his betting pick below.

Rockets vs. Lakers Game 2 Betting Odds

Rockets Odds +5.5 [BET NOW]
Lakers Odds -5.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -230/+190 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 223 [BET NOW]
Time 8:40 p.m. ET
TV ABC

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After the Houston Rockets’ Game 1 112-97 destruction of the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James compared their small-ball lineup to an iconic 2000s football team.

“It’s kind of like in the early 2000s when you had the St. Louis Rams, The Greatest Show on Turf,” James said after the loss. “People always used to say how they would scout them and scout them and scout them, but until you got on the field and you saw Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk and Az Hakim and all those guys. And you were like, ‘OK, we need to play them again,’ because there’s no way you can simulate that speed. So, getting out on the floor and having a Game 1 gives you a good feel for it.”

Although the Lakers tried to dictate the rules of engagement by playing their lineups with two bigs, one game into this series the Rockets have made them play on their terms.

With Anthony Davis now willing to play minutes at center, are the Lakers more prepared for the Rockets’ speed and quickness? How will the Lakers adjust?  Let’s find out.

Houston Rockets

Unlike the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers don’t have Luguentz Dort to guard James Harden. The result was tantamount to removing a straitjacket, as Harden got whatever he wanted, scoring 25 of his 36 points in the first half, to go along with five assists, two rebounds and two steals. Coming off a grueling Game 7, Harden didn’t have to work hard for his points, as he finished 12-of-20 from the field on 71.2 TS% in just 34 minutes of game time. If there’s a great sign for the Rockets moving forward, it’s that they can win games in this series without their best player playing his full load of minutes.

Despite five turnovers, Russell Westbrook added 24 points, six assists and nine rebounds and looked more like the version of him that we saw before his quad injury as opposed to the one we saw in the last three playoff games. Eric Gordon also added 23 points for the Rockets.

Although Harden being a thorn in the Lakers’ side was to be expected, and getting solid games from Houston’s co-stars isn’t shocking, what may have come as a surprise to many was how well the Rockets defended. Despite being the postseason’s top defense with a defensive rating of 101.4, it was largely seen as product of facing the Oklahoma City Thunder. Houston completely rewrote that narrative in Game 1 as they forced 17 turnovers for 27 points, holding the Lakers under 100 points while limiting them to less than a point per possession with an offensive rating of 99.3.

Although Davis has been seen as a mismatch for P.J. Tucker, none of his 25 points came with Tucker guarding him. Furthermore, in 26 possessions in which Tucker was the primary defender, Davis was 0-for-1 with two turnovers.

In addition, the Rockets also out rebounded the Lakers, 53-47, and outscored them in the paint, 42-40 — areas in which the Lakers were supposed to win. Whether this is sustainable or not, is a question we’ll find out in game 2.


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Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers had five days off in between their Game 5 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers and Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets.  Playing just their second game in 11 days, you have to wonder if rust played a role in their performance. They gave up 17 turnovers for 27 points and although James provided 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, he was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.

That said, the biggest issue for the Lakers is their lack of shooting. It’s hard enough when you’re facing a math problem due to the Rockets launching so many 3-point attempts, but it’s extremely difficult to overcome shooting just 11-of-28 (.289) from behind the arc as they did in Game 1. Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso are key rotational pieces who are shooting sub-35% from 3-point range. While Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is shooting 37%, he’s been inconsistent and went 1-for-5 from 3. In addition, the return of Rajon Rondo has made things more difficult for the Lakers. Despite going 2-of-5 from deep, with Rondo being a career 31.6% 3-point shooter, the Rockets are guarding him the same way they did Dort: by ignoring him.

Take a look at the video below with LeBron complaining about the lack of spacing on the floor.

 

With the lack of spacing created by Rondo and another big on the floor, the Rockets are packing the paint and LeBron is forced to drive into clogged lanes.

One thing that’s evident throughout the Rockets’ playoff series these last few seasons is that switching everything defensively forces teams into ISO ball. Although Oklahoma City had quicker guards in Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder, who can capitalize on defenders who can’t stay in front of them, the Lakers don’t have many players who can create their own shot outside of LeBron and AD.  Dion Waiters did play five minutes in the fourth quarter of Game 5, but his defense is a concern. It will be interesting to see if we see more of him in this series due to his playmaking, scoring and shooting capabilities. It will also be interesting to see if Jared Dudley gets a look as well.

Besides the struggles on offense, the Lakers didn’t win the areas they were supposed to win due to their size, rebounding and ability to get points in the paint. One thing is clear, the Lakers will need big series from both James and Davis to win this series. Nevertheless, if role players can’t step up and hit open jumpers, you have to wonder if this is a team that resembles the 2003 Lakers, who had Shaq and Kobe but suffered a second-round loss to the Spurs due to an aging core who couldn’t do enough to help their stars.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

When looking at Game 2, you have to wonder how much of Game 1 is sustainable. Will the Rockets continue to dominate with points in the paint?  Will the Rockets continue to outrebound the Lakers? Can the Lakers 3-point shooting woes continue? Will the Lakers continue to give up 27 points off turnovers?

When it comes to these questions, I think it’s likely Lakers will clean up the turnovers and get back in transition.  They can also dominate the paint and outrebound the Rockets, but it’s likely they still can’t match the Rockets from behind the arc, in addition to not having an answer for Harden.

The Lakers’ role players leave a lot to be desired in this matchup and there’s some debate as to whether the Lakers should go small with Davis at center. If the Lakers play AD at center, who are the options to play with that lineup? Vogel seems to trust Rondo over most of the Lakers guards, which causes spacing issues. Even without Rondo in the lineup, how can the Lakers beat the Rockets at their own game when they have multiple rotational pieces who aren’t reliable 3-point shooters?

At the same time, playing two bigs presents its list of challenges as well. In order for the Lakers to play big they actually need to reap the benefits of it, which is likely, but the Lakers bigs can’t keep up with all the Rockets shooting. The Rockets were just 21-of-50 on uncontested field goals in Game 1 and shot 35.9% from 3. It feels like Houston has more left offensively than we saw in Game 1.

As I said in my Game 1 preview, my full season numbers make this game Lakers -3. I think it was fair to bump the spread up in Game 1 given a lack of rest but in this spot, Lakers -5.5 still feels too high.  I see this game coming down to the final possessions with either team having a chance to win. I’m not particularly fond of fading LeBron James in Game 2 down 0-1, but there’s a first time for everything and the Rockets appear to be the better team. While LeBron James and Anthony Davis are two of the top three players in the series, when you compare the rest of the roster, Houston just has more in the cupboard and they have a the math advantage in their favor. 

The Pick: Rockets +5.5

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