After defeating the Utah Jazz in 5 games in their first-round series, the Lakers will be well rested (exactly a week) when they face the Houston Rockets, who needed 6 games to end Portland's season.
With Yao Ming in the paint it will be a much more physical series for the Lakers. Andrew Bynum who was a non-factor against Utah and was benched by Phil Jackson in game 5, will be needed more than ever. Despite his struggles in the first round Bynum will return to the starting lineup to try to contain the Chinese giant. Pau Gasol will also spent some time with Yao if needed. When not, he will have an European-style confrontation with Luis Scola. Both Gasol and Scola (who is from Argentina but has been a star in Europe) have a refined repertory of movements, a respectable shooting range, can score a lot and have great knowledge of the game and what's going on on the court.
As always, Kobe Bryant's performance will be the key to the Lakers success. Ron Artest and Shane Battier are expected to chase him all over the court. Lamar Odom will also have a big role coming from the bench for L.A. and Von Wafer explosiveness will give fresh air to Houston.
The Lakers swept the regular season series with the Rockets and are happy not to face the Trail Blazers after having lost their last 8 games at Portland.
Lakers and Rockets have met 7 times in the NBA playoffs. Los Angeles won 4 of those series. The Rockets hadn't advanced out of the first round since 1997.
Other factors will be that the Lakers have home-court advantage and the injury of Luke Walton who suffered a partial ligament tear in his left ankle (although he's expected to play). Tracy McGrady''s season ended in February when he underwent surgery on his left knee and he won't play in these playoffs.