Houston Rockets at L.A. Clippers
Time: 10:35 PM ET
Spread: LAC -3
Betting odds c/o Bovada
The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers are coming head to head in what promises to be a high scoring affair. Late NBA daily lines show the Clippers as three-point favorites with the total set at a reasonable yet high 213. For NBA odds explained, please click here.
The Rockets have made the most of a talent that the Detroit Pistons simply discarded. Most suspected Josh Smith would make a great fit in the offense, and he has. He’s improved his three-pint marksmanship and his athleticism is a well-received trait with an offense that thrives in transition. Putting Smith alongside Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza locks up the perimeter, even if James Harden falls asleep defensively. Anchored by Dwight Howard (once healthy), and the Rockets are a strong defensive team. Houston is a legitimate contender.
Last postseason it proved simply to be too much LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard as the Rockets were defeated 4 games to 2 in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Portland is still right there, but the top-7 teams in the West are all true contenders. Houston has no reason to look over its shoulder, nor panic.
The Rockets should matchup well with all teams, particularly so since Donatas Motiejunas is proving to be a good defender at both the 4 and 5 spots. Terrence Jones completes a strong frontcourt rotation when healthy, and if the Rockets can keep most of its rotation on the court for the postseason, the loss of Omer Asik should not be much of one at all. Initially, many suspected Houston would be too thin up front to matchup against the likes of Portland and San Antonio, but that seems to be allayed with the acquisition of Smith.
James Harden is battling shoulder soreness but is expected to play. Howard remains shelved, but the Rockets have fared fine without the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Houston could be dominating at full-strength.
Blake Griffin is once again an All-Star starter, and it’s hard to find fault with the fans’ selection. He’s averaging a 22.87 PER while putting up averages of 22.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game; but most impressively, is Griffin’s 5.1 assists per contest. He’s developing a game far more complex than most suspected he would coming out of Oklahoma where he mostly relied on jumping over defenders. Griffin has a back to the basket game, can push the ball in transition, and is comfortable shooting on the perimeter. His ceiling still has not been reached, and other than LaMarcus Aldridge, it’s hard to construct an argument that any 4-man is better.
Griffin underwent surgery to remove a staph infection and will not be ready to go. He’s expected to miss three to four weeks.
That is a big loss to the Clips. Over his past 10 games, Griffin has shot 50 percent from the floor and averaged 19.9 points per game. As he goes, so go the Clippers: Griffin averages 23.7 points per game in victories, but just 20.3 points per game in the 17 Clippers losses.
The offense begins with Chris Paul, but ends with Griffin. DeAndre Jordan can flush it down with his limited skill set, but if the Clippers are going to force teams to double, or over play pick and rolls, it is going to be because of Griffin. Paul once again made the All-Star team, though there are many pundits saying Damian Lillard deserved the nod. Even so, the Clips put two All-Stars in the game.
DeAndre Jordan continues to prove he was worth every bit of the extension he received two years ago. His 13.7 rebounds per game lead the NBA and he’s scoring 10.5 points too, a well paid recipient of frequent Paul lob passes. The Clippers have a strong wealth of scorers to turn to, with J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford combining to average 30.4 points per game at the 2-guard spot. Matt Barnes’ value exceeds his statistical averages because he brings toughness and good corner three-point shooting, which is enough to be a valuable commodity on any NBA club.
Doc Rivers is trying to help his son Austin acclimate to the NBA still, though he has had the chance to start twice. Rivers is seeing 19.5 minutes per game but posting a PER of just 9.5. It remains to be seen if he can be a valuable contributor, but this will be his best chance at it, given his father’s patience. The Clippers don’t really need Rivers to be much more than a spot performer, but with the team thriving he should be able to get opportunities to play with the first unit some.