Russell Westbrook Out vs. Lakers With Bruised Quad
Rockets guard Russell Westbrook will not play in Houston's matchup with the Lakers on Thursday due to a bruised right quad, head coach Mike D'Antoni announced pregame.
Ben McLemore will start in Westbrook's place, per D'Antoni.
Los Angeles will also be without one of its superstars on Thursday. LeBron James is listed as out for the contest due to a sore right groin.
It's unclear when Westbrook injured his quad. The 2016-17 MVP scored just 15 points in Tuesday's loss to the Blazers, going 5-14 from the field.
The Rockets' bench will need to fill the void in Westbrook's absence. Houston is still without Eric Gordon in its rotation after the 12-year veteran sprained his ankle in a scrimmage on July 28. Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni said on Tuesday he hopes for Gordon to play in at least one seeding game before the 2020 playoffs.
Houston will face its greatest challenge on Thursday when James Harden heads to the bench. Austin Rivers is the only other true playmaker left in D'Antoni's rotation, and expanded roles are likely to emerge for Danuel House and Ben McLemore. Units without Harden or Westbrook actually thrived in Tuesday's loss to Portland, as the Rockets' supporting cast went on an 11-2 run to tie contest at 88-88 early in the fourth quarter.
“Those guys did an unbelievable job of just keeping us in the game, making big shots creating turnovers with our defense,” Harden said postgame. “The guys are confident.”
Forward DeMarre Carroll could also see the floor for the first time in Orlando on Thursday. Carroll signed with the Rockets in February, but he's just played in just six of Houston's last 13 games.
Harden and the Rockets will look to advance to 3–1 in Orlando on Thursday as they face the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. CT.