Houston at L.A. Clippers
Time: 9:30 PM CT, TNT
Spread: HOU -4.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Houston Rockets have won its past three games after incurring some struggles that were its first of the 2017-18 season. Houston had lost four of six including its last two prior to the three-game win streak, but it appears to be back on track after knocking off Chicago, Portland and the L.A. Lakers.
The Rockets now travel to face the L.A. Clippers at Staples Center as 4.5-point favorites. The over/under is set at 228.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
The Rockets won by an average of 15 points per game over its three-game win streak, with the most recent being a 112-95 victory over the Phoenix Suns. Chris Paul led Rockets scorers with 25 points, while also dishing six assists and grabbing eight boards. James Harden sat out the game with a sprained hamstring, but all Rockets starters scored in double-figures, and Clint Capela was especially dominant with a +22 plus-minus, as he scored 17 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, dished three assists and came up with two steals and a block.
Remember, Capela was the talent that made Daryl Morey A-OK with saying good-bye to Dwight Howard, and Capela has a future as a dominant big; he continues to grow every night. He could one day become an All-Star.
Back to CP3: Paul has been sensational in the month of January, too. The 12th year guard from Wake Forest is averaging 23 points and 10.2 assists, to go with 7.3 rebounds in 33 minutes a night, and he has averaged 26 points per game over Houston’s last five. Paul finds a way to dominate, and he really cannot be rattled once he gets going.
Paul is shooting 47.4 percent from the floor on 19 attempts over the past five, proving that he can guide this team if Harden needs rest, in particular. Harden is hoping to return Thursday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Houston will definitely be without its leading scorer once again against the Clippers today. CP3 could have something of a revenge game against the team he devoted so much to, and Houston is favored because they are a stronger team sans Harden than a nearly fully healthy Clippers club.
The Clippers (21-21) are now a team built around Blake Griffin. It is a .500 team, for better or worse, L.A. had to say goodbye to the staple of its franchise.
Having already lost star point guard Chris Paul over the offseason, Los Angeles more or less handed the reigns of the team off to Griffin, who led it in assists at 4.9 per game prior to suffering the leg injury. Griffin is still out up to two months with what is being termed a sprained MCL, and the Clippers really have no offensive creators to step up in his stead.
To be sure, Austin Rivers (15.8 points per game) and Lou Williams (23.1 points per game) are both good bucket-getters, but neither offers much along the way of getting teammates involved, and Patrick Beverley is not known for that a lot either (2.9 assists per game), as the team’s floor general.
Really, the point-forward experiment with Griffin was all the Clippers had to muster a chance against more talented teams in the West, and for all that Danilo Gallinari spoke of the team having the league’s best frontcourt, it is almost devoid of playmakers to get those big men baskets.
Center DeAndre Jordan has suffered sans Paul, and Gallinari is finding it more difficult to get offense as a Clipper than he did during his tenure in Denver either. Between the two, they combine to average just 25.2 points per game, which makes Griffin’s 23.1 per game still not enough. The Clippers put up 107 points per game as a team, which is respectable in today’s NBA, but the team is being obliterated defensively and surrendering just as many (106.8) per game.
Even with a premier rim protector like Jordan and a disruptor in the backcourt like Beverley, the Clippers have not found a way to form a coherent team defense, with missing rotations and lazy swings accounting for teams continually hurting L.A. from the perimeter.
The Clippers may trail No. 8 Denver by just half a game at this juncture, but all of the teams ahead of Los Angeles (perhaps save cross-town rival Lakers) are better teams on the defensive end. Between not having a real formula for offensive success, but just a glut of talent and the team’s glaring defensive inadequacies make it difficult to envision much more than a first-round sweep at the hands of Houston or Golden State.
That actually sounds like just what a purist would expect, and only Griffin’s own fans?expected him to be able to carry the offensive load for an NBA team for a full season without serious injuries. He is an injury prone star, and the Clippers are now a strange collection of talents without his game-changing abilities on the court. It is not difficult to see why the team is six games below .500 with those woes clearly laid out before the reader.