When and where to watch: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets, 7 pm on TNT
Lakers (-5) @ Rockets (218)
Pick: Under 218
In eight playoff games so far in the bubble, the Lakers are giving up a shade over 106 points per game. As LeBron James certainly knows, you have to defend at this time of year to win championships, and the purple and gold seem to be doing that. They take a 2-1 series lead heading into tonight’s Game 4 against the Rockets and there’s no reason to think their level on defense will dip. Defense is often about effort and intensity. The Lakers have shown plenty of that, coming back to win four straight against Portland after losing the first game in the opening round, and keeping the Rockets under 110 in each of the last two games after dropping Game 1.
So how does Houston respond? In a must-win game, look for the Rockets to embrace a defensive-oriented style that has already yielded some good results for them so far in the bubble. Here’s a look at Houston’s five wins in the playoffs:
Game 1 vs Oklahoma City: 123-108, Thunder shot 44% from the field.
Game 2 vs Oklahoma City: 111-98, Thunder shot 44.3% from the field.
Game 5 vs Oklahoma City: 114-80, Thunder shot 31.5% from the field.
Game 7 vs Oklahoma City: 104-102, Thunder shot 46.1% from the field.
Game 1 vs Lakers: 112-97, Lakers shot 42.2% from the field.
The top nine teams in the regular season in opponent field goal percentage all held opponents to 45% or lower from the field. The Thunder held Rockets to 43.5% shooting in the first round, yet Houston found a way to win the series? Why? Because in their wins against the Thunder they were able to hold down the fort themselves. I’m not sure who wins tonight, but I am sure both teams will defend well so I love the under.