Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers Preview
Two of the Western Conferences’ premier teams are set to face off for the third time this season. Their previous matchup, a 122-119 victory for the Clippers was a revenge game of sorts considering the Rockets won the first contest 102-93. Both the Rockets and the Clippers made big changes over the offseason, and both squads have had to adjust to their new rosters. The adjustments have gone better for the Clippers (21-8), who now have Kawhi Leonard and Paul George developing on-court chemistry. The Rockets (18-9) have had to lean heavily on James Harden–who is doing things on offense that are both incredible and rage-inducing–even though they traded for Russell Westbrook over the summer. Russ hasn’t been consistent with his outside shot, so defenses have been able to scheme the point guard out of certain games.
The Rockets average 119.7 points per game (second) while the Clippers score 115.1 per game (fifth). The advantage L.A. holds over Houston is on the defensive end: the Clippers are fifth in defensive rating while the Rockets sit at 16th.
If you care about hoops, then you should care about this no. 2 versus no. 5 clash in December, between two teams that have a good chance of seeing each other in the postseason.
Time: 10:30 PM ET
Arena: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Rockets: Tyson Chandler (Q), Eric Gordon (O), Gerald Green (O), Nene Hilario (O)
Clippers: JaMychal Green (Q)
Houston Rockets Starting Lineup
The Rockets had no reason to appeal their most recent game, a 109-107 victory against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night. Houston completed a 25-point comeback, the biggest comeback in franchise history behind Westbrook’s 31 points.
“Sometimes you’ve got to want it more than the other team,” Westbrook said. “It’s that simple. no plays or no possessions or no shots can change that.”
Russ added 10 rebounds, four assists, a steal, and a block to go along with 11-for-25 shooting. Harden bounced back after a 4-for-17 shooting first half, finishing the game 10-for-29 and scoring 28 points. Capela had a strong performance as well; the big man had 15 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, and three blocks and connected on seven of his nine field-goal attempts. Ben McLemore chipped in 17 off the bench on 4-for-9 from the 3-point line.
The game was tied with 2:34 remaining in the game when P.J. Tucker drilled a 3 from the corner. After that, Rudy Gay helped cut the deficit to one point with a layup with just under a minute remaining. Harden missed a 3 for Houston and Bryn Forbes for the Spurs shot a 3 that rolled off the rim. Harden then hit two free-throws to extend the lead to 109-106.
Forbes then missed another 3 with 10 seconds left. The Spurs got the ball off of a dead-ball rebound, inbounded it, were intentionally fouled, missed the second free throw, but Westbrook corralled the rebound to ensure the victory.
Houston is 10-5 in the West and 8-5 on the road. They still–like they are known to do–take and make a lot of 3s. Their three-point volume number compared to their actual accuracy from beyond the arc is not flattering. The Rockets make 15.8 3s per game (first), attempt 45.7 (first), but only shoot 34.5 percent on the deep ball. The math is what they lean on, and in 2019-20 nothing has changed.
Los Angeles Clippers Starting Lineup
The Clipper’s last game was a 120-99 victory over the Phoenix Suns. L.A. is close to having a healthy roster for the first time all season, with their only injured player being JaMychal Green.
The Clippers returned home to Staples after being on the road for two weeks, a road trip they went 4-2 on. In the first game back in L.A. in a while, George and Leonard led the way for their teams with 24 and 20 points, respectively.
The key for the Clippers was their dominant third quarter, where the lead ballooned from five to 21 by the time it was over.
“We can start to get into a rhythm with everybody on the floor,” Leonard said. “We can see what our rotation is.”
Lou Willams did that classic Lou Willams thing and added 20 points off the bench, including the Clippers’ first 11 points of the final frame.
The Clippers have the perfect team to match up against the Rockets. Well, OK, the perfect team to match up against any perimeter-oriented team. An offensive scheme predicated on 3s and drives should be just the team Los Angeles can feast against. The issue is the bearded one representing the city of Houston. Harden is a game-breaker. He can’t really be schemed against–I mean the whole double-teaming him at halfcourt thing is working OK I guess, but in the end, Harden will ultimately get to his spots and get his numbers. The key is staying disciplined on defense and funneling him into drives towards help defenders with the wingspan to disrupt passing lanes and shot attempts.
In short, Harden is unstoppable, better just hope he misses shots.
Key Player Matchups
Paul George vs. James Harden
PG13 has always been one of the elite wing defenders in the league, and he’s no stranger to matching up with Harden. George has the wingspan and quickness to deflect passes coming cross-court or while defending his man straight up. For all forwards in the league, PG ranks eighth in the league in deflections per game with 3.1. But ultimately does it matter? Harden is putting up goofy numbers–38.9 points (first), 25.1 field goals attempts per game (first), 13.9 3-point attempts per game (first), and 13.1 free-throws per game (first)–all while upsetting Twitter and basketball forums everywhere. Most people don’t like watching it [raises hand] but Harden isn’t bothered by it because this style of play has worked. Good chance it works tonight too.
Patrick Beverly vs. Russell Westbrook
These two hate each other. There’s no denying it. There’s no sugarcoating it. These guys have legit beef, and the most entertaining part of their matchup will be the jawing back and forth. Because it for sure won’t be the shooting prowess of either guy–Russ is shooting 22.8 percent on 3s and Beverly is shooting 33 percent from deep. Expect to see Beverly spend time guarding Harden as well.
Kawhi Leonard vs. Danuel House
Leonard, quite possibly the most feared perimeter defender since Scottie Pippen (or shoot I would say Miami-era Playoff Lebron) spends a good chunk of time playing off superstar players to start games. He plays the passing lanes and works as a deterrent helping off the ball. Staying off the opponent’s best player to start the game also allows Kawhi to have the energy to get into an offensive groove early in the contest. Danuel House is a solid player, who plays hard on defense, knocks down 3s, and runs the floor in transition. It’s not an easy one, but House will most likely share the bulk of Kawhi-time along with his teammate Tucker.
A game like this holds no shortage of high-producing players, and playing daily fantasy will tell you all you need to know about the fantasy production that will come from this game. The Rockets duo, Westbrook and Harden are your top 2 fantasy point-getters for this matchup. Harden is going for $11.4k on FanDuel with his fantasy projections set for 55.3. Westbrook is available for $9.3k with projections set for 42 points.
For the Clippers, the wing combo of PG and Kawhi are unsurprisingly your two stud pickups. Leonard has a salary of $9.4k with projections set for 43 points and his running mate, George, can be had for $9.1k with projections set for 39.1 fantasy points.
Bet on Matchup
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