L.A. Clippers vs. Houston Rockets
February 13, 2013
7:30 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket/NBATV
Can you believe there is a basketball game being played at the Staples Center? For the first time in a fortnight, the Clippers’ collective feet will touch the floor in L.A. to actually play a basketball game against the Houston Rockets. But the Rockets can score with the best of them. Will the Clips be able to hold them? That and more in today’s 3-on-3:
1. The Rockets are on the second game of a road back-to-back. How does this affect the way the Clippers prepare?
Michael Pina, Red94, (@MichaelVPina): The Rockets are the youngest team in basketball and they play like it, with no real minute restrictions on any of their key players—as a group they play with a slightly quicker pace in games with no rest compared to those with one day in between. That being said, they’ve averaged just 0.974 points per possession on the second leg of back to backs this season, a sizable drop off from their normally efficient offense. The Clippers just need to make sure they grab all of Houston’s missed shots. There could be a bunch.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): It doesn’t, or at least it shouldn’t. The Clippers can’t afford to underestimate any opponent at this point in the season, no matter how tired the opposition is. L.A. needs to tear the Rockets’ hearts out early – like they did the 76ers – and continue their momentum.
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): The combined point total of Tuesday’s Rockets-Warriors game was 223, but L.A. can’t assume Houston shot itself into exhaustion. They lead the league in pace and are fifth in offensive efficiency (106.7 points per 100 possessions), so they’ll be ready to run. If anywhere, fatigue manifests itself on defense, meaning L.A. needs to punish them early and often.
2. Over/under 9.5 three-pointers made for the Rockets.
Pina: Over. The Rockets are hitting just under 12 threes per game in February, and with Harden out tonight that number could get even higher as they look to compensate for his lost production.
Buha: Under. With James Harden out of the lineup, the Rockets lost their top scoring threat and creator, so the Clippers will have less penetration and kick-outs to worry about. I think Houston may actually end up taking more 3-pointers than they would have if Harden played to compensate for his loss, but they definitely won’t be as good of looks.
James: The Clippers struggle to guard the three, yes, but with Harden out, they should be able to stay home on Houston’s perimeter players and contest shots. I’ll take the under, though the knowledge that the Rockets drained 16 threes against San Antonio during Harden’s only other absence gives me pause.
3. Do the Clips have to win both this game and the Lakers game to feel good about themselves heading into the All-Star Break?
Pina: Even if they lose both these games by a sizable margin (unlikely), the Clippers will still head into the All-Star break as one of the four best teams in the league. Health is a much larger concern for this team as they look to make their run down the stretch.
Buha: Yes. Some will say no, but I disagree. Chris Paul himself said he wasn’t satisfied with the 4-4 road trip. The Clippers are neck-and-neck with the Grizzlies and Nuggets now, so the margin for error is smaller than ever. At worst, they need to split these two games, preferably winning the Laker one.
James: I doubt they’ll feel good until they make up the ground they lost these last three weeks. The Clippers hold a razor-thin lead for the third spot in the West, but they should be thinking about challenging Oklahoma City and San Antonio, not treading water with Memphis and Denver. So, yeah, they need to win both.