Houston at L.A. Clippers
Time: 9:30 PM CT (TNT)
Spread: LAC -8
Odds c/o 5dimes
At this point, James Harden and the No. 3 seeded Houston Rockets are wondering what more could be done to garner their star player the respect he seemingly deserves after an unforgettable turnaround and ascent to the Western Conference’s elite teams.
Harden lamented that the MVP award may be decided on things other than the basis of wins, and be that as it may the 54-26 Rockets will whet their playoff bristles with a tune up against the No. 4 seeded L.A. Clippers as the 2016-17 season reaches its penultimate game.
The Clips are 8-point favorites at Staples Center, where it has posted a 27-12 mark this season, but Houston is 25-15 on the road and this game could be a bit closer than the spread set by Vegas oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes. Though the Clippers are now hot in its own right, Harden may be on something of a mission after the parade of Westbrook love shown by both fellow players and media following another stat-stuffing monster performance from the MVP-favorite in Oklahoma City.
Harden certainly has his case to be the league’s MVP. Westbrook detractors are quick to point out that Harden is responsible for a greater percentage of Houston’s offense, while also having posted a record that has Houston a full eight-games ahead of the No.6 seeded Thunder. Harden did not average a triple-double, true, but how much emphasis should historical accomplishment be given over team success?
That is difficult to gauge, especially given there are no actual criteria for the Most Valuable Player award. Should Harden be snubbed, if it can be dubbed such at any rate, it may only increase his motivations to dominate Westbrook and the Thunder in its first round matchup, that is now officially locked in.
Regardless of how it plays out, the Rockets are tuning up for what will be one of the more exciting first round series of either conference. As for tonight’s contest, the Clippers have more at stake considering they are currently locked into a 4/5 tie with the Utah Jazz. Securing homecourt in the first round is still a real consideration for the Clippers, and as of today they have it: but Utah can still pass them in these final two games of the 2016-17 season.
L.A. has won its past five contests, with victories over the Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, L.A. Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs. While three of those five teams are bound for the lottery, the wins over Washington and San Antonio prove that Chris Paul has his team starting to play its best basketball when it matters, now, as the postseason nears. The return of Blake Griffin to the Clippers starting lineup has had plenty to do with it, of course.
The free agent to-be has averaged 23.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and four assists over the Clips last 10 contest while shooting 54 percent from the floor. And the Clippers have gone 8-2 over that span. The numbers are a marked improvement over his season average of 21.7 points per game, in a year that has been riddled with injuries for the 28-year-old All-Star. As to whether he or Chris Paul remain in Los Angeles past this season is highly questionable, but at any rate the team appears poised to make one final postseason push before the Doc Rivers era comes to what many are considering a somewhat predictable and disappointing close. There has already been wide-spread speculation about Rivers’ future, ranging from accepting a front office job elsewhere, to leaving coaching behind and returning to the broadcasting booth. Whatsoever the case, the experiment with Paul and the Clippers cannot be said to be a failure, not yet, but with one final postseason flame-out, that chapter will have reached its close.