May 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) points up after a play during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers in game seven of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Clippers 113-100 to win the series 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Keys to Winning:
- WITHSTAND THE EARLY ARENA NOISE AND CLIPPER PRESSURE: It’s reasonable to expect the Staples center will be loud and the Clippers starting 5 (sans Stephenson) will come out dialed in. It’s important Houston come out with energy and withstand the initial 5 minutes ideally taking an early lead to quiet the crowd.
- IF IT AIN’T BROKE DON’T FIX IT -KEEP MOVING: Houston has moved the ball and their personnel better in the 3 wins. The Rockets will get 3 days off to work on improving their offensive flow, so it makes sense to allow Harden primary ball handling (just for this game).
Before I get responses saying Lawson needs to be the primary ball handler make note I AGREE. But until the team has time to practice to get their sets down and improve their chemistry the results of the last 3 games and Harden’s production speak to the need to put him in a role that gives him the most comfort.
- REBOUND: LAC currently allow the most rebounds by opponents per game (50). This more than any other stat bodes well for Houston because their offense can excel in quick outlet passes and opens the floor for them to hit stop and pop threes.
- PACE: Both teams are notorious for pushing the pace and fast break points, but neither has been excelling in that capacity early in the season. As all the new players gel and the teams gain familiarity watch for this stat to rise. Whoever wins the rebounding battle should also win the pace battle.
- STICK TO ROCKETS STYLE – P.I.P/3-POINT SHOTS: Sure the Clippers have Jordan to contend with at the rim, but the fact they rank 30th in opponent rebounds and 21st for allowed 3-pointers also falling right into Houston’s game strategy.
The odds makers have made the Clippers 7 point favorites with an over/under of 215 points.
Let’s just clear up right away this game is bound to have a playoff feel to it given the Clippers will want to send a message to Houston after their oust last season. Meanwhile a Rockets win would push them over .500 for the first time this season.
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LA has a distinct advantage as they haven’t played since Wednesday while the Rockets enter the game still nursing a depleted front court and playing the second game of a back to back set.
Prediction: Clippers, but don’t discount Howard/Harden rising to the challenge. Unlike most predictions who pick LA to win by double digits I say if the zebra’s don’t affect the game (i.e. give out calls for Griffin’s flopping) this one could be much closer than expected. And, if CP3 can’t go that changes everything as LA aren’t nearly as successful on either end (but especially on offense) without Paul.
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