LOS ANGELES LAKERS (15-18)
at HOUSTON ROCKETS (20-14)
Tip-off: Tuesday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -7.5, Total: 219
The sizzling-hot Rockets try to add to the Lakers misery when the two teams meet at Toyota Center on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles is 0-3 (SU and ATS) so far in 2013, and it will be missing three frontcourt players for this game -- C Dwight Howard (shoulder), PF Pau Gasol (concussion) and C Jordan Hill (hip). Houston could be without starting SF Chandler Parsons (illness), but this team is 9-2 SU (10-1 ATS) in its past 11 games, including winning the past four contests by an average of 13.3 PPG. These clubs have split two meetings this season, with the home team prevailing in each game, but the Rockets are 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings with the Lakers.
Can the Rockets take advantage of an injury-laden Lakers team and cover the hefty spread? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts have posted a strong 54% ATS (53-45-1) mark since Dec. 22. StatFox Brian is 15-7 ATS (68%) since Dec. 23, while StatFox Scott is 11-4 ATS (73%) since Dec. 29, giving him a season Best Bets mark of 56.3% ATS (49-38), with Brian (55% ATS) and StatFox Gary (51% ATS) also profitable. The four experts are collectively 52% ATS (207-194-11) on Best Bets for the season. For NBA Totals, the experts are an excellent 29-21 (58%) since Dec. 28 with StatFox Brian going 11-5 (69%) during this span. Scott continues to have a great year at 51-35 (59%) for his season NBA totals.
The Lakers were strong offensively in Sunday's 112-105 home loss to Denver, shooting 46.3% from the floor with 30 assists on 38 made field goals. But the defense was atrocious, allowing 60 Points in the Paint (L.A. had 38), and 25 fast-break points (L.A. had 14). Howard had 14 points and 26 rebounds before getting injured, while SG Kobe Bryant (NBA-high 30.5 PPG) had 29 points, seven assists and five boards. He has scored at least 27 points in 17 straight games, averaging a ridiculous 33.9 PPG on 47.2% FG during this stretch. This includes a 39-point game at Houston on Dec. 4, which increased his career scoring average to 27.2 PPG in 54 career regular-season games against the Rockets. In the past three seasons, Bryant has 30.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 5.6 APG in eight regular-season meetings with Houston. With all the injuries to account for, PG Steve Nash (10.2 PPG) will likely look to score more on Tuesday. He's shooting 53% from the floor this season, but has attempted just 7.8 shots per game. Nash hasn't faced the Rockets yet in a Lakers uniform, but in the previous seven seasons, he scored 16.9 PPG on 54% FG against them. SF Metta World Peace (13.2 PPG) needs to make more shots (41.8% FG) and PF Antawn Jamison (6.7 PPG) will likely see his minutes increase greatly from the total of 26 over his past four contests (6.5 per game). The last time Jamison logged 30+ minutes was in the Dec. 4 loss at Toyota Center when he scored 15 points and grabbed 10 boards. D-League call-up Robert Sacre will likely start at center for Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Houston leads the NBA in scoring at 106.2 PPG, thanks to 113.5 PPG on 51.1% FG during its four-game win streak. SG James Harden has 29.3 PPG (47% FG) and 5.5 APG during this streak, while PF Patrick Patterson has 16.0 PPG on 20-of-28 FG (71.4%) and 6.7 RPG in the three games in 2013. This duo struggled against L.A. when the teams last met on Dec. 4, as Harden shot 3-of-19 from the floor and Patterson managed just six points and two rebounds in 28 minutes of play. However, Harden has 25+ points in 12 straight games, and without Howard, Gasol and Hill in the paint, Patterson should have a big day down low. The reason the Rockets were able to win that last meeting with the Lakers was their bench trio of PF Greg Smith (21 points, 9 rebounds), PG Toney Douglas (22 points) and SF Carlos Delfino (15 points). All three reserves posted a +20 rating or better in that game. PG Jeremy Lin will have his hands full with trying to guard Nash on Monday, but he has played pretty well offensively during his team's 9-2 surge, averaging 14.9 PPG (51% FG, 82% FT) and 7.2 APG.