The top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers open their Western Conference Semifinals series against the fourth-seeded Houston Rockets on Friday, September 4. The Lakers had to wait for a few days to find out their next rival, as the Rockets needed seven games to eliminate Oklahoma City in the previous round.
While the Lakers reached the semis for the first time since 2012, the Rockets made it to the last four in the west for the fourth straight year. We have prepared all the betting tips and notes for Friday’s opener along with the best nba pick, so let’s take a closer look.
The Lakers missed Rajon Rondo (back) in the first round, but the 34-year-old PG could be ready for the start of the semifinal series. The Rockets are without Luc Mbah a Moute (knee).
Los Angeles is a 6.5-point fave on BetAmerica at the moment. The Lakers are listed at -280 moneyline odds on the same platform, while the Rockets are +245 underdogs to win straight up. BetMGM offers a 226.5-point line on the totals.
What’s at Stake?
Winning the opener can build the team’s confidence. However, the Lakers dropped Game 1 in the previous round and still thrashed off the Trail Blazers in the next four meetings. On the other side, the Rockets won the first two games of the OKC series and still had to play all seven contests.
As I’ve mentioned, the Lakers had some time to rest, while the Rockets could struggle with fatigue. Houston had just a day off after playing seven games against the Thunder is the first round.
The Rockets have won two of their three meetings with the Lakers this past regular season and are 2-1 ATS in the process. They met each other once in the bubble, and the Rockets beat the Lakers 113-97 as 3.5-point favorites with a total of 228.0 points.
Both teams were quite short-handed in that previous clash, as the Lakers missed LeBron James, while the Rockets were without Russell Westbrook. Interestingly, the Lakers made only a couple of triples out of 19 attempts from deep. The Rockets shot 21-for-57 from downtown.
Kyle Kuzma moved to the starting lineup and led the Lakers with 21 points, while Anthony Davis had 17 points and 12 rebounds. James Harden was a key guy for the Rockets, dropping 39 points along with 12 assists.
The Rockets will have to deal with Anthony Davis somehow. Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker will try their best to slow down The Brow, but that’s going to be a very difficult assignment. I think the Rockets’ D on Davis will be a key factor in this series.
Houston can only play small-ball basketball, and that’s a double-edged sword. The Rockets will have to double team a lot, so the Lakers will inevitably get plenty of open shots. If they start hitting from beyond the arc, the Rockets will be in big trouble.
On the other side, the Lakers will have to play their best defense. James Harden and Russell Westbrook can beat anyone on a good day, and the Rockets are always dangerous when it comes to 3-point shooting.
I’m looking for the Lakers to take full advantage of the Rockets’ fatigue. Houston has to be exhausted after a long and exciting first-round series. Also, I would lean on the Lakers to play smart and use their weapons in the paint.
Hereof, I’m backing the Lakers to cover a 4.5-point spread at -160 odds. The Rockets are still one of the best offensive teams in the league, and guys like Harden and Westbrook can always keep it close. The Lakers have won just three of their last ten matchups with the Rockets, but they’ve covered six times in that stretch.
I would stay away from the totals, at least for the opener. The under is 3-1 in the last four meetings between these two foes, and the Lakers will certainly look to slow down things, but you never know with the Rockets’ 3-point shooting.