HOUSTON – With reigning MVP James Harden, who scored 57 and 58 points, respectively, in his last two games, Lakers coach Luke Walton has a modest defensive goal for his team heading into Saturday's game against the Houston Rockets.
"If we can keep it below 50, we feel like we've been successful as a group," Walton said with a wry smile after the shooting on Saturday morning. "If you get more than 50, then the game plan did not work."
Harden, with an average of the best 35.4 points per game in the league, has scored more than 30 points in 18 consecutive games, combining three 50-point games and eight 40-point games. Houston has achieved a 13-5 record in that stretch to climb to No. 6 in the Western Conference and heads to Saturday's game (8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, ABC / ESPN application).
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Coincidentally, Harden's good run started against the Lakers on December 13, when he scored 50 points, 10 rebounds and 11 badists and made 18 of 19 free throws to lead the Rockets to a 126-111 victory.
"He's going to have fouls, he's going to have 3-pointers, he's going to score," Walton said. "He's in an incredible tear right now, we just have to keep fighting and playing through all of that."
The last time the Lakers played with the Rockets, of course, they had LeBron James in the lineup. He scored 29 points in 12 of 18 shots.
James is not with the team in Houston this time, staying in Los Angeles to continue rehabilitating the tension of the left groin that made him lose the last 12 games.
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THE. He went 5-7 without James, and without Rajon Rondo, who missed the same amount of time after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his right ring finger, but things are getting better.
Not only have the Lakers won their last two games without the pair of veterans made, including an overtime victory of 138-128 on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, but the returns of James and Rondo could be around the corner. from the corner.
Both have been allowed to resume full contact practice, and Walton said he plans to organize that practice on Sunday at El Segundo when the team returns from its two-game road trip.
"We're hoping to have both of them," Walton said. It will be determined [Sunday]. I do not know what LeBron is doing today as to how aggressive his work will be on the court. But depending on how you feel later today, tomorrow morning will depend on how much you do in practice that we have tomorrow. And Rondo will be practically full tomorrow. "
James was acquitted on Wednesday, but the team left for Oklahoma City that day without practicing before his flight. Rondo was evicted on Friday and played informal half court games 3 in 3 and full court 4 in 4 in Houston.
Even with the development of the positive practice, Walton was reluctant when asked if James and Rondo could be back in the lineup on Monday when the Lakers host the team. Golden State Warriors on the day of Martin Luther King Jr.
"Call it" hopeful ", said Walton. "Of course I have hopes, but I do not anticipate, I would not expect any of them to play on Monday."