The Los Angeles Lakers will shoot for their fifth win in six games on Wednesday night when they visit the Houston Rockets, but the Lakers will be without both of their stars.
LeBron James, who hasn’t played since Feb. 26, remains sidelined for at least another week due to a right foot tendon injury.
Anthony Davis, who has been carrying the team in James’ absence, will sit out Wednesday as the Lakers complete a set of back-to-back games.
Davis paired 35 points with 17 rebounds in a 123-108 road victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday. Afterward, Lakers coach Darvin Ham said the team would sit Davis for the Houston game due to lingering issues with a right foot ailment that kept Davis out from mid-December to late January.
“It’s just one of those things where even though he’s playing pain-free, it’s still an active injury, so we have to monitor it and stick to the plan, as we always have done,” Ham said. “And just go out there with our other guys and try to get a W and finish the trip the right way.”
Davis wasn’t thrilled by the team’s decision to give him a night off.
“I mean, it’s tough,” he said. “Especially because each game, obviously, you want to go out and play. But before I even came back, it’s something the doctors and the organization discussed that they thought it would be best for me not to play back-to-backs …
“It’s still a stress reaction, and we’re doing all the right things to make sure that I’m ready to go, and I still need that day break. Obviously it sucks.”
The Lakers are 9-4 since a series of acquisitions reshaped their roster at the trade deadline. They sank a franchise-record 15 first-half 3-pointers on Tuesday, and they led the Pelicans by as many as 40 points before easing off late in the third period and into the fourth.
Still, the Lakers achieved their foremost goal and moved into a tie for eighth place in the Western Conference alongside the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks.
The last-place Rockets already are eliminated from playoff contention, but they are getting strong late-season production from rookie forward Jabari Smith Jr.
On Monday, Smith became the first Houston rookie since Hakeem Olajuwon to record three consecutive 20-point, 10-rebound double-doubles when he had 24 points and 11 rebounds in a 111-109 home victory over the Boston Celtics.
Smith matched his career high with five 3-pointers and is averaging 24.7 points and 11 rebounds during his double-double streak. His stretch of improved play extends to the resumption of the season following the All-Star break, as Smith is averaging 14.6 points and 7.6 rebounds in the past 10 games after averaging 12 points an seven boards in the first 55 contests.
“I’m happy for him,” Rockets guard Jalen Green said. “We know the real Jabari, and he’s showing it right now to everybody. To everyone who doubted him — the haters, everyone — he’s showing it right now.”
The Rockets have won three of their past six games following an 11-game losing streak, but they still might finish with the worst record in the NBA for a third consecutive season.
“We’re a work in progress, right?” coach Stephen Silas said. “But when we understand the moment, it’s gratifying as a coach for sure because we’re constantly teaching them. But they need to feel it. As much as we can watch film, as much as we can talk about it, as much as we can write it on the board, there’s no better teaching method than going through it and finding some success at the end like we did (against Boston).”
–Field Level Media