In order for LeBron James and his mixed bag of teammates to break into the win column, the Los Angeles Lakers must overcome the Western Conference finalist Houston Rockets on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time).
It's the classic matchup between a team whose players are still learning to play together and another who have explicit championship aspirations.
Game time is 10:30 a.m. (Manila time).
The Lakers lost their season debut to Portland 128-119, a game in which James brought up the value of being patient with a group that is essentially in its feeling-out stage.
"I always kind of compare it to like instant oatmeal," James said of the Lakers' development as a singular unit.
"It is not that fast. It takes a while to get to where you can close your eyes and know exactly where your guys are."
James and his crew will be at home, which is expected to sell out its seats and draw an array of celebrities at the Staples Center hasn't seen since Kobe Bryant's farewell tour in the 2015-16 season.
Fans will primarily be there for the hoopla surrounding No. 23, so it'll be interesting to see whether collecting wins in this honeymoon stage is at a premium.
Both the Lakers and the Rockets are coming off losses.
While Los Angeles fought Portland to the end before chalking up an L, their weaknesses shooting the 3-ball (7 of 30, 23.3%) and manning the interior were glaring.
The bright spots were courtesy of Rajon Rondo (13 points, 11 assists), Josh Hart (20 points, 8-of-12 field goals), Javale McGee (13 points, 3 blocks) and, of course, James (26 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists 9-of-16 FGs).
"We're literally less than a month in," James said. "So, it's still early. You still got to go through some things. You're going to go through some adversity. See how guys react to it. See what guys get going."
Eyeing a trip to the NBA finals, the veteran Rockets will want to show the Lakers that their playoff ambitions are far harder to achieve than they had thought.
Houston brings back James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela, a defensive-minded big man who can give the Laker frontline fits.
McGee, a member of the Golden State Warriors team that battled and beat the Rockets in the previous West finals, said the margin of errors is small against Harden and co.
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