This series was one I was personally dreading because of the high volume of shots, which will inevitably be missed, and the lack of cohesion that each team can show at any given moment. The series will not make any sense and will be one of the ugliest conference semifinals in recent memory.
The No. 1 seed Los Angeles Lakers were able to advance to the Western Conference semifinals after eliminating the injury-riddled, No. 8 seed Portland Trail Blazers in five games. It wasn’t an easy five games for the Lakers as Portland pushed LA to the brink in Games 3 and 5, thanks to great performances from C.J. McCollum.
LA will regain some depth as guard Rajon Rondo will see his first action since March. Rondo brings the extra championship pedigree that could propel the Lakers over the hump when the later round come.
However, the Lakers will only be able to win games if they can be efficient from beyond the arc and the team can find a consistent third scorer. They will need the scoring depth from Games 2 and 4 in the Portland series to keep Houston at bay.
The good news for the Lakers is that both them and Houston were bottom-five of 16 teams in 3-point percentage during the first round. The Lakers were the second-highest scoring team in the first round, while Houston was a mediocre eighth.
While James Harden was productive, averaging 29.7 points per game, he still only shot 31% from 3-point. The Rockets need him to be more consistent from beyond the arc if they want to match the firepower and 70+ points combined that LeBron James and Anthony Davis will inevitably provide.
Russell Westbrook was bad in the three games he played against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He shot a measly 17% from three and had seven turnovers in a disastrous Game 6 collapse. He will need to settle down and settle in for Houston to be productive against a defensively-sound Laker squad.
The ex-factors for Houston will come from how effective P.J. Tucker, Robert Covington and Jeff Green will be from three. These men showed spurts of greatness throughout the Thunder series, but they need to bring their A-game for every minute they play in this series.
Get ready for sloppiness, ugliness and a lot of missed shots. In the end, James and Davis will make up for all of the Lakers missed threes to help punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals.
Prediction: Lakers in 6