L.A. at Houston: Pregame Tidbits

What do you need to know about the Lakers and Rockets heading into Tuesday evening’s game in Houston? This:

BYNUM GOING OFF: Andrew Bynum was so good last week that he received the Western Conference Player of the Week nod for the second time in his 7-year career (week of Jan. 26, 2009). Bynum led the Lakers to a 3-1 week, averaging 27.5 points on 65.5 percent shooting and leading the West in rebounding (14.8). He needs only 28 more POW selections to catch Kobe Bryant (30). Bynum actually had the first 20-point, 20-rebound game of his career against Houston in LAL’s home win on 1/3 (21 and 22), and is up to 2nd in the NBA in field goal percentage at .578 behind only Tyson Chandler, who has attempted only 245 shots to Bynum’s 512.

SESSIONS FITTING IN: Two games in, the reviews on Ramon Sessions from his teammates and coaches have been universally positive. His ability to penetrate the opposing paint is a big bonus for a team that didn’t much do so, aside from Kobe Bryant’s occasional forays, which puts a whole new kind of pressure on defenses and forces Sessions into the scouting report, taking away some focus from Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Sessions had six assists in 22 minutes against Utah and five in 19 against Minnesota; he ranks 11th in the NBA in assist per 48 minutes with 10.2.
To watch our “Get to Know” video with Sessions, in which he talks about his 6-month old puppy, “Sesh,” click here.

INJURY UPDATE: Injuries have been the biggest factor in Houston’s struggles, with Kyle Lowry out the past six games with a bacterial infection and Kevin Martin missing the last four with a strained right shoulder. Lowry will miss Tuesday’s game, and we’ll have to wait and see about Martin. Courtney Lee played really well at OKC and LAC in Martin’s place, scoring 21 and 25 points, though he struggled with his shooting vs. CHA and @ Phoenix (0-for-8 last game). Lowry almost went for a triple-double in Houston’s loss at L.A. in January with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists, though Goran Dragic has been very good behind him. Dragic is averaging 16 points, 9.2 assists and 1.8 steals in the games Lowry has missed.

TURNOVERS: Think this will be at the top of Mike Brown’s “Do Not Do!” list? Even without committing a single turnover in the fourth quarter against Utah, the Lakers still finished with 24 in the loss, second only to the 27 they committed against Memphis on Jan. 8. Both Brown and Kobe Bryant said many of the turnovers were unforced, which is more about focus than anything else, though Utah’s physicality did have an effect. Sometimes a tough loss helps reenforce that such mistakes don’t go unpunished in the NBA.

DEFENSE SLIPPING AS OFFENSE IMPROVES?: LAL’s coaches pride themselves on defense, so the fact that the Lakers have given up 100 points in three of the last four games, even while the offense has improved, does not sit well with Mike Brown. “That’s not who we are,” he said. “We have to get back to committing to the defensive end of the floor and not giving up baskets the way that we have been. To have Utah shoot over 47 percent and score 103 points is mind-boggling for us.”

SHOT SELECTION NOT AN ISSUE: One could look at Bynum’s super efficient 12-for-14 evening against Utah and Kobe Bryant’s very inefficient 3-for-20 and conclude that Bynum should have taken more shots, but it’s not really like that. In fact, Bynum got a ton of touches, but often had to pass out of double and triple teams, so getting 14 shots up was pretty good. Bryant generally takes more than 20 shots, and most were ones he usually makes. Brown doesn’t want Kobe passing up on really good scoring opportunities. The bottom line was that Bryant simply had a bad shooting night. It happens.

HOUSTON STRUGGLING TO HOLD LEADS: Six teams have come back from at least 10 down to defeat the Rockets this season.

Tip is at 5 p.m. Pacific in Houston; see you there.