Rockets vs Lakers: Role Players Who Must Shine to Push Los Angeles into Playoff

There is no question that the Los Angeles Lakers face an uphill climb when it comes to doing damage in the playoffs without superstar Kobe Bryant, who is out for the remainder of the season with a torn Achilles. Before the Lakers can focus on that, however, they must first qualify for the postseason.

Los Angeles will have a chance to do precisely that when it faces the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. Should the Lakers win, they will clinch the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. If they lose and the Utah Jazz lose as well, then they will clinch the No. 8 seed. Should Los Angeles lose and Utah win, however, the Lakers will miss the playoffs completely.

There is no question that beating the Rockets is the easiest route for the Lakers at this point, so that will obviously be their main focus. With Bryant on the shelf, here are three role players who must step up in order for L.A. to qualify for the postseason.


Steve Blake

While big men Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol will have to carry the load for the most part against Houston and in the playoffs should the Lakers make it, a guard will have to step up and make up for some of what was lost when Bryant went down.

There isn't a player on the roster who can replace Kobe. In fact, there may not be a player in the entire league who can replace Kobe, but Steve Blake has filled in admirably thus far.

Head coach Mike D'Antoni leaned heavily on Blake against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, and he delivered. In 31 minutes of play, Blake dropped 23 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. He's no Kobe, but it was a Bryant-esque performance as he filled up the stat sheet and gave the Lakers some semblance of an outside presence.

Perhaps the true test for Blake against the Rockets will be his defensive acumen, however. Blake will likely be tasked with handling opposing point guard Jeremy Lin, who has had a nice ...

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