The Los Angeles Lakers found their groove offensively in the first round against the Portland Trail Blazers, but now they’re in for a much tougher test against James Harden and the super small Houston Rockets. Houston, coming off of a seven-game victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, are the stylistic opposite to the Lakers. They don’t play a single traditional big man. The Lakers have based their identity off of them. 

They say styles make fights, and that has never been truer than it is in this matchup. These two teams couldn’t be any more different, and their matchup will go a long way in determining whether or not Houston’s micro-ball approach gains any widespread traction around the league. Here’s everything you need to know about Game 1 of this exciting second-round matchup. 

How to Watch Lakers vs. Rockets Game 1

  • Date: Friday, Sept. 4 | 9 p.m. ET
  • Location: Disney Wide World of Sports — Orlando, Florida
  • TV: ESPN  Stream online: fuboTV (try for free)
  • Odds: Lakers -6 | Over/Under: 225.5

Storylines

Rockets: Russell Westbrook was awful in the first round against Oklahoma City while recovering from a quad injury that kept him out of the first four games of the series. He averaged only 14.7 points in that matchup, lacking the explosiveness that makes him special. Some rest would likely do him good, but the Rockets get only a day of it before turning around and facing a Lakers team that hasn’t played in almost a week. How long will it take Westbrook to get back up to speed, and if he can’t, do the Rockets really have a chance in this series? 

Lakers: The Lakers are the biggest team in the NBA, and they’re about to play one of the smallest in league history. The Rockets eschewed the center position entirely at the trade deadline, and won the only healthy matchup the two teams played afterward. Their speed and shooting advantages were evident, and the Lakers responded by sitting JaVale McGee when they met up earlier in the bubble. How small are the Lakers willing to go in this series? Does McGee play at all? Does Dwight Howard? Will Anthony Davis commit to being a full-time center? Could we even see LeBron at the 5? The Lakers don’t want to play Houston’s game fully, but their version of caveman basketball just isn’t going to work against the Rockets, and the balance they strike will be the key to their hopes in this series. 

Game prediction

The Lakers are the series favorite for good reason here, but Portland exposed one of Frank Vogel’s weaknesses as a coach in the first round: he’s slow to adjust. That’s why the Lakers lost Game 1, and he never wavered off of his broken starting lineup afterward. The Lakers will right the ship, but expect them to drop an early game in this series due to their commitment to the status quo. Pick: Rockets +6

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