Rockets News

Game Day: Houston Rockets play LA Clippers on MLK Day

By Tamberlyn Richardson
Dec 19, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick (4) dribbles against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) in the second half at Toyota Center. Rockets won 107 to 97. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick (4) dribbles against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) in the second half at Toyota Center. Rockets won 107 to 97. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
facebooktwitterreddit

Houston Rockets Game Day: Rockets vs. Clippers

As long as their is a National Basketball Association there will be a rivalry between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. That fact was already evident prior to last seasons semi final Western Conference battle, but became cemented after it.

It may seem as if the teams are headed in different directions given the Clippers recent 10 game win streak of which Blake Griffin has missed 9 games  while the Rockets have continued their yo-yo behavior. However the Rockets have won 6 of their past 7 games and have at times more closely resembled last year’s squad.

They still have work to do on the defensive end of the court and their front court needs to get healthy, but there is room for optimism. With that, let’s compare the teams and tonight’s match-up:

The Details

Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles ,California

Game Time: 10:30 PM EST – 9:30 PM CT

TV: ROOT and TNT National Game

Radio: 790 AM and The Beast 980/KWKW 1

Recent History:

The teams split last season regular season games and the Rockets dramatically came back in the playoffs from 1-3 down to win the series. This season the Rockets are 1-0 so far having beat L.A. in their first meeting.

  • Dec 19 LAC 97 – 107 HOU
  • Nov 7 HOU 109 – 105 LAC – Harden scored 46 points and Howard offered the rare 20-20 double-double
  • Mar 15  HOU 100-98 LAC
  • Feb 25 LAC 105-110 HOU
  • Feb 11 HOU 95-110 LAC

Walking Wounded:

Clippers:

Rockets:

Projected Starters:

Clippers: Chris PaulJ.J. Redick Luc Mbah A Moute,  Paul Pierce, Cole Aldrich

Rockets: Jason Terry, James Harden, , Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard,   Clint Capela

Key Reserves:

Clippers: Jamal Crawford,   Josh Smith,   Wesley Johnson,  Lance Stephenson

Rockets: Terrence Jones,   Ty Lawson , Marcus Thornton, Corey BrewerK.J. McDaniels,

Key Match-up:

Stop the Clippers backcourt:

Last time out we earmarked the Howard vs Jordan match-up, but Dwight is nursing an oblique strain and this is the second game of a back to back set though he did get ample rest in the second half versus the Lakers. For his part iron man Jordan missed the last game  so odds are he’ll be back in today. Still, the key tonight will be dealing with Chris Paul and JJ Redick who have both been on a major roll over their past 11 games. Though their 10 game win streak was halted by Sacramento the Clippers are still feeling extremely positive.

Over their past 11 games Chris Paul has averaged 19 points, 10.6 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals. His 3-point shot has been hit and miss with him failing to hit from long range early in the win streak (shooting 35% over the 11 games), but recently he has been hot from distance shooting 11 of 17 in the past 4 games or 64%. However, it’s Paul’s ability to penetrate the paint, mid range shooting and assists to his teammates which make him a force to be reckoned with.

As for Redick I said earlier this season he is truly the key to how well the Clippers play and to be honest I’m not surprised the team is able to win without Griffin or Paul given the depth of the Clippers talent. Yet over the past two seasons when Redick is out the Clippers have a losing schedule winning only twice in the 8 games he missed. Over their last 11 games Redick has averaged 17.8 points and shot 53% from behind the arc.

While this Clipper backcourt has been on fire it does point out a couple of situations which the Rockets should key in on as they prepare their game plan:

Rockets vs Clippers MLK day
Rockets vs Clippers MLK day

Keys to Winning:

  • Take advantage of the paint:  The Clippers don’t score as much in the paint as you would think given they have a penetrating point guard in Paul, the beast that is DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Perhaps more than anything this points to how much Griffin has moved away from scoring in the paint electing to shot from the field to avoid physical play and it also highlights the fact Jordan can only score on lobs or offense rebounds leading to put back dunks.
  • Rebound: Though you would imagine both teams are rebounding beasts the opposite is the true. Despite boasting a rather large front court and a center dedicated just to defense the Clippers  rank 22nd in rebounding. Now before you start jumping up and down the Rockets rank two spot ahead in 2oth place. That said a better measuring stick is rebound percentage (or the percentage of total rebounds collected), in this category the Clippers rank 27th and the Rockets rank 19th. Suffice to say grabbing the rebounds tonight will be key to controlling pace, tempo, and getting out in transition.
  • Pace: Both teams are notorious for pushing the pace with it mattering slightly more to the Rockets. If they can control the boards they’ll look to push the pace as well and get out in transition to create fast break points.
  • DON’T turn over the gall: Ranked 29th the Rockets have been abysmal at protecting the rock while the Clippers have excelled at protecting the rock (ranked 2nd). Therefore a major key to success will be to force turnovers by the Clippers while protecting the rock on their end of the floor.
  • Force Paul into being a perimeter scorer: Sure he’s been on fire lately, but if you clog his passing lanes and don’t allow him to set up his teammates it should make the Rockets job easier. And, just for fun watch how much time Paul uses out of every shot clock then ask yourself how different this Clippers team would be without him. Just food for thought as one would assume another post season failure this year will most surely result in either CP3 or Griffin being dealt with Paul the more likely option.
  • Make Defense the priority: looking at the ten game win streak of the Clippers is completely misleading especially when you consider who their opposition has been. Wins came against the Lakers, Jazz, Wizards, Charlotte x 2, Pelicans x 2, Sixers, Blazers,  and the Heat. In case something doesn’t jump out at you it’s that only the Heat have a top 10 defense among all these teams. In fact the Hornets are the next highest ranked defense at 14 among these 8 teams they beat in the win streak. In other words the secret is to play solid defense on the Clippers and you’ll have a much better opportunity at the win.

The Pick:

The odds makers have made the Clippers 5.5 point favorites with an over/under of 209 points and early action slightly leaning toward LA.

Prediction:

With Houston playing on the back end of their B2B set these odds make sense, but as I pointed out above their record is highly misleading.  In fact if you dig a little deeper into the Clippers record they are 0-7 versus the top 10 teams and 6- 11 versus the top 16 teams! What that should tell you is the Clippers record is a bit of fools gold.  As much as the Rockets have been mediocre to this point their record versus these top teams is much better: 5- 6 vs the top 10 and 9 – 11 vs the top 16.

If you recall the last time the Rockets and Clippers played I pointed to the schedule getting more difficult for the Rockets. In essence the teams each team played since they last met is extremely different.

While the Clippers played a series of teams who don’t play defense well the Rockets conversely played some quality teams such as the Warriors, Spurs twice, Hawks, Pacers, Grizzlies and Cavaliers.

Since the last game between these two teams on December 19 the opponents records tells the full story:

Clippers:

  • LOSS: Thunder (30-12)
  • WIN: Lakers (9-34)
  • WIN: Jazz (18-22) Clippers were on second night of B2B
  • WIN: Wizards (19-20)
  • WIN: Hornets (18-22)
  • WIN: Pelicans (13-26) Clippers were on second night of B2B
  • WIN: Sixers (5-27) Philly playing on second night of B2B
  • WIN: Blazers (18-25)
  • WIN: Hornets (18-22)
  • WIN: Pelicans  (13-26) Clippers were on second night of B2B
  • WIN: Heat (23-18)
  • LOSS: Kings (17-23)

12 Games: 10 wins, 2 losses, opponent record 201 – 277 or a 42% win percentage

More from Space City Scoop

Rockets:

  • WIN: Hornets (18-22)
  • LOSS: Magic  (20-19)
  • WIN: Spurs (36-6)
  • LOSS: Pelicans (13-26) – both teams playing on second night of B2B
  • LOSS: Hawks (24-17) Atlanta playing on second night of B2B
  • LOSS: Warriors (37-4) Golden State playing on second night of B2B
  • LOSS: Spurs (36-6)
  • WIN: Jazz (18-22)
  • WIN: Jazz (18-22) Utah playing on second night of B2B
  • WIN: Pacers (22-19)
  • WIN: Grizzlies (23-19)
  • WIN: Timberwolves (13-29) Rockets playing on second night of B2B
  • LOSS: Cavaliers on B2B- (28-10)
  • WIN Lakers (9-34)

14 games: 8 wins, 6 losses, opponent record 315 – 255 with a 55.2% win percentage

In essence the Rockets have been playing teams with winning records while the Clippers have not and further as I outlined above the Clippers have also been playing teams with poor defensive rankings. With that, I still think the Clippers may take this game given the Rockets have a tendency to throw away whole sections of games, or rather Mr. Harden does. The good news is the best defender on the Clippers (Redick) won’t be able to keep Harden off the score board and also be the second option so that will help.

I’m about 60-40 this season in my predictions and while I’d love to take the Rockets in one point fight, I’m leaning toward the Clippers by the 5 point spread. If only everyone could rely on the Rockets to bring their true effort for 48 minutes it would be so much easier.

For more exciting news and stories on the Los Angeles Clippers visit our affiliate Fansided site: Clipperholics

Next: Clippers Team Preview - Dance Lessons with Ballmer

Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

facebooktwitterreddit