After spending most of this season under achieving fate and timing may offer an avenue for the Houston Rockets to ascend to a higher seed. Tonight they’ll face the team they would ideally want to tip-off versus in the post season.
In the final game of their season series the Clippers arrive to play the Houston Rockets having been spanked last night by the Spurs. In their previous 3 meetings the Rockets hold a 2 games to 1 edge with the lone loss occurring in overtime.
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.
All season it seemed the teams were heading in opposite directions with the Clippers picking up right where they ended last season as a top seed. Conversely the Rockets started the season flailing and have been mired in adversity and inconsistency all season.
Around mid season things began to change for the Clippers. Blake Griffin had been on the injured list with a torn quadriceps was preparing to return and subsequently was on the Clippers road trip which had them in Toronto a night early awaiting their game on January 24th. What occurred next felt more like the plot line of a movie than reality.
Griffin, some other players and the Clippers equipment Manager (Matias Testi) were out for dinner and got into a heated argument. The spat extended to the street where Griffin proceeded to pummel the Testi in the face. Obviously this wasn’t a minor verbal debate and shoving match as Griffin literally broke a bone in his hand. Based on the different accounts of the incident Griffin did hit Testi more than once. Bottom line the spiral fracture of his fourth metacarpal bone has kept him out of the line-up since that incident, or a total of 23 games and counting. The Clippers record over this time span is 14 wins and 9 losses, but their recent losses have been concerning as both Cleveland and San Antonio beat them by 20 plus points.
The odd statement out of the Clippers camp yesterday was the injury continuing to keep Griffin out of the line-up is the original quadriceps injury. Odd given he was slated to return when he broke his hand. So, did the fight re-injury the quadriceps muscle?
— ESPN 1100/100.9 FM (@ESPNLasVegas) February 19, 2016
For those wondering why I’ve been so keen for the Rockets to move up the ladder to the fifth seed, this is part of the answer why. Sure when Griffin returns it will add depth and talent to the team, but there has always been the issue of transferring the Clippers regular season success to the post season.
With the Memphis Grizzlies devastated with injury it is possible they could slip down the ladder, though their magic number to clinch a post season berth is 9. In my recent article: East Coast trip launches Houston Rockets up ladder I noted the remaining schedule for the 5 teams competing to grab the West seeds 5-8. Of those teams the Grizzlies have a very difficult schedule and are predominantly on the road. The trick for the Rockets isn’t just winning their own games, it will also be getting past the Blazers who they split the season series with. A win versus the Clippers would tie them with the Blazers though the Rockets would remain in seventh due to the Blazers’ division and conference records being better.
Regardless the Rockets need to keep winning and set their sights on getting to the sixth or fifth seed.
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:
Venue: Toyota Center Houston, Texas
Game Time: 9:30 PM EST – 8:30 PM CT
TV: ROOT and TNT National Game
Radio: 790 AM and The Beast 980AM/KWKW 1330AM
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.
- Jan 18 LAC 140 – 132 HOU (in over time)
- 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
- Blake Griffin– Quadriceps, remains out due to quadriceps injury (not the broken bone in his hand)
- Paul Pierce – toe, missed the game versus the Spurs, remains questionable for tonight
- Branden Dawson missed both Sunday and last night’s game for personal reasons, remains questionable
- Terrence Jones has oddly been kept out even though he apparently is okay health wise.
- Sam Dekker back, day to day
Howard vs Jordan
Last time out Dwight Howard was nursing an oblique strain, but it sure didn’t stop him from performing as he scored 36 points and grabbed 26 rebounds. For his part DeAndre Jordan scored 16 points and snagged 15 rebounds.
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 and the beast that is DeAndre Jordan . Perhaps more than anything this points to how much Griffin has moved away from scoring in the paint and him being out for a majority of the Clippers games this season.
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 23rd in rebounding. Now before you start jumping up and down the Rockets rank two spot ahead in 21st place. That said a better measuring stick is rebound percentage (or the percentage of total rebounds collected), in this category the Clippers rank 28th and the Rockets rank 22nd. Suffice to say grabbing the rebounds tonight will be key to controlling pace, tempo, and getting out in transition.
Defense and Pace : On the season the Rockets rank 23rd on defense and the Clippers rank 7th. However in the month of March the Rockets rank 3rd and the Clippers have fallen to 17th. While both teams utilize pace it is much more important to the Rockets offense.
Who would have guessed it https://t.co/U7ZmlsubuS
— The Dream Shake (@DreamShakeSBN) March 15, 2016
DON’T turn over the ball: 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.
More from Space City Scoop
- Why Tad Brown is the Rockets’ biggest loss to date
- Rockets legend in awe over Stephen Curry’s level of play
- Rockets fiasco shows importance of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook
- Houston Rockets: Evan Mobley worth a look at No. 2 in NBA Draft
- Houston Rockets: Ranking the top-five 2021 NBA draft prospects
Force Paul into being a perimeter scorer: Make a point to 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. Prior to the Griffin punch gate one would have assumed CP3 would be the most likely candidate to trade in the off season, but now I won’t be surprised to see Griffin headed somewhere this sumer if the Clippers don’t make it to the Western Conference Finals at a minimum.
The odds makers have made the Rockets favored by 3.5 point favorites with an over/under of 216 points and early action slightly leaning toward the Rockets.
With the Clippers playing on the second night of their back to back set the odds seem a bit low especially given the home team generally receives between a 3 to 5 point leeway. Then factor in how poorly the Clippers played in their last 2 games getting blown out by both the Cavaliers and the Spurs. Winning tonight would give the Rockets a 3-1 edge on the season series which would normally be relevant, but given the 8.5 game margin the Clippers have over Houston it doesn’t mean much other than Houston need the win to maintain their rank and attempt to move higher.
After this evening the Rockets will have just four games versus the top 4 teams in either conference: 2 games versus the Thunder and one each versus the Cavaliers and Raptors.
With Houston being the more desperate team and the Rockets having played so well of late, let’s pick the home town team by 3.
For more exciting news and stories on the Los Angeles Clippers visit our affiliate FanSided site: Clipperholics and the link below provides our preseason Clippers team preview:
Space City Scoop is always looking to add new talent to our writing team. Currently we’re looking for individuals with a specialized focus. The first area of focus is perfect for someone who is constantly surfing the web for breaking news on injuries, trades, insider info etc. This individual would select the top news items and provide timely quick hits to keep SCS readers in the loop.
The other area of focus is someone who possesses a strong social media background who likes to interact with Clutch City Fans. You’ll promote SCS team content on facebook and twitter while also making sure to promote the best content coming from H-Town fans. If you have this capability and are interested check out this link and fill out an application.