After playing just one game over a 10-day period, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers return to action on Friday evening. The top-seeded Lakers face off against James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of a best-of-seven series with a spot in the Western Conference Finals on the line. James (groin), Davis (finger) and Rajon Rondo (back) are on the injury report as probable for Los Angeles, with Houston entering the series at full strength.
Tip-off is at 9 p.m. ET in Orlando. William Hill lists the Lakers as 6.5-point favorites, while the over-under, or total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored, is 227 in the latest Lakers vs. Rockets odds. Before you make any Rockets vs. Lakers picks, be sure to see the NBA predictions from SportsLine's proven computer model.
The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times, and it's already returned over $5,000 in profit on its top-rated NBA picks this season. It entered the week on a blistering 60-33 run on top-rated NBA spread picks, returning almost $2,400 on those picks alone. It's also a sizzling 10-2 on top-rated picks since the NBA's restart in July. Anybody who has followed it has seen huge returns.
- Lakers vs. Rockets spread: Lakers -6.5
- Lakers vs. Rockets over-under: 227 points
- Lakers vs. Rockets money line: Lakers -290, Rockets +245
- LAL: The Lakers are 3-7 against the spread in the last 10 games
- HOU: The Rockets are 3-7 against the spread in the last 10 games
Why the Lakers can cover
The Lakers are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, finishing third in points allowed per possession during the regular season. Los Angeles also finished third in turnover creation and seventh in shooting efficiency allowed, with a big, physical assortment of defensive-minded players. Los Angeles also ranks as an above-average defensive rebounding team and, with the Rockets deploying a smaller squad that doesn't crash the offensive glass, the Lakers should end possessions consistently if they can force missed shots.
Offensively, the Lakers have a path to bludgeoning the Rockets with size, including the No. 2 offensive rebound rate in the postseason. Houston relies on quickness and versatility, but Davis, Dwight Howard and others will boast a significant size and strength advantage on the interior.
Why the Rockets can cover
This series presents a fascinating contrast in style, with the Rockets using a small-ball approach against a larger, more physical opponent. Houston features a dynamic offense, led by Harden, and the former NBA MVP is averaging 29.7 points and 8.0 assists per game in the postseason. The Rockets surround Harden and Westbrook with shooting, including Robert Covington, who converted 50 percent of his three-point attempts against the Thunder in round one.
Defensively, Houston has been quite effective, leading the NBA Playoffs in defensive rating and finishing with a top-five turnover rate in the regular season. The Rockets will need to increase the variance associated with a bevy of three-point attempts but, if they can convert, the math swings in their favor against a Lakers team with perimeter shooting challenges.
How to make Lakers vs. Rockets picks
SportsLine's model is leaning under on the total, with Kyle Kuzma and Westbrook projected to fall short of their season-long scoring averages. The model also says one side of the spread hits well over 50 percent of the time. You can only get the pick at SportsLine.
So who wins Rockets vs. Lakers? And which side of the spread hits in well over 50 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Lakers vs. Rockets spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that is up over $5,000 on its top-rated NBA picks this season, and find out.