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Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets
2016/17 NBA Championship, 27 October 2016
|Staples Center, Los Angeles|
|Los Angeles Lakers||Houston Rockets|
The post-Kobe Bryant era begins for the Los Angeles Lakers when they host the Houston Rockets last season. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage from 1:30pm (AEDT).
For the first time since he began his career in 1996, the Lakers will be without Bryant and after a disastrous 2015-16 season it will be very much a rebuilding campaign for the Lakers.
With Bryant moving on, it’s finally time for the Lakers’ younger stars, led by point guard D’Angelo Russell, to stand up and be counted.
The Lakers made a couple of reasonable signings during the off-season, but they will be lacking the star power to fire them towards a playoff berth after finishing last in the West in 15-16.
Luol Deng and centre Timofey Mozgov headline their recruits and the pressure will be on Deng for him to lead the way with his scoring. His combination with Russell will be crucial.
The question for the Lakers is how number two draft pick Brandon Ingram will perform. The forward has been promising yet inconsistent during the pre-season. He has given glimpses of how he can shoot and rebound but consistency is needed if he is going to bring something extra to LA.
The Rockets’ biggest problems last year were team unity and defence, which was virtually non-existent. A big part of that problem was James Harden, who is still at the franchise.
In terms of the team being on the same page and having a larger presence in the post, though, Dwight Howard has been shipped off and so their effort on the glass at both ends should improve.
Howard has got to the point where he wasn’t doing much more than just standing there and hoping the ball would come his way. Clint Capela and Nene are likely to form a two-pronged centre pairing this time around that should propel the Rockets on offence.
All the talk in the pre-season is that with Harden likely to move to point guard and run the offence under Mike D’Antonio and it should make them a very exciting side to watch.
If their defence improves enough, then Houston could be in for a strong season, however, it looks like there will be more inconsistency than anything else and they could well struggle to break 41 wins.
There is no questioning the offensive potential they have – Harden one of the better shooters in the league – but they have to score enough points to allow for their well below average defence.
Last season’s series between the clubs saw Houston not drop a match.
At home, the Lakers will be out to impress but they are very much rebuilding. If Deng and Russell combine well they are a chance, but Houston should have too much offence with Harden leading the way.
Rockets by 7.
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Follow Scott on Twitter @sk_pryde