Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets
7:30 p.m. PST
November 4, 2013
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Who would you rather have on your team right now? James Harden or Dwight Howard?
Seerat Sohi, (@DamianTrillard): At equal health, Dwight Howard. In his short time in Houston, Dwight’s been the game-changer we once pegged him as. The Asik-Howard combination has held opponents to 87.9 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com, and the ultimate hallmark of opponent concession is back in full swing: Hack-a-Dwight.
Luke Laubhan, (@lukelaubhan): Give me The Beard. For one thing, Harden’s a better player than Dwight now, whether we’re talking points, PER, or first-through-fourth-quarter reliability. More than that, though, Harden is a mellow killer who was groomed in Oklahoma City’s team-first culture, whereas Dwight’s persona seems to oscillate between class clown and brooding diva. Harden’s healthier, too. Sorry, Dwight.
Michael Shagrin, (@mshaggy): Harden. Harden right now. Harden moving forward. Harden through a wormhole (Rockets–>space–>wormholes. No? Alright.) Now that’s not a knock on Howard, who’s off to a great start (the dude is averaging 17 rebounds per game) after a disappointing campaign with the Lakers. Nevertheless, Harden is less of question mark and his pairing with a dominant inside force like Howard will do more to support the Beard’s aggressive style of play than visa versa.
2. The Clippers lead the NBA in offensive efficiency. They’re last in defensive efficiency. Small sample size or is this something to watch?
Sohi: Three games in, all caveats of the small sample size theatre apply. But that’s not to say this won’t be a trend. The Clippers were poised to be rejuvenated on offense thanks to the additions of Redick and Dudley even if Doc Rivers didn’t come along, but the defensive side of the ball has been a mixed bag from the get go. Griffin and D.J. are making concerted efforts to improve but the lapses in focus and late rotations continue to persist.
Laubhan: Both. In 2012-13, the Clippers finished fourth in the league in offensive efficiency; their high ranking in that area this season is no surprise, especially given the upgraded outside shooting. Last year, LA also finished with a top-ten defensive efficiency ranking, though, so their early failure there is bit alarming. Presumably, as the season wears on, the Clippers will settle into Doc’s system and defend better. We’ll see.
Shagrin: Both. While I expect the offense to continue humming at this or a similar rate, the Thibodeau-style defense is a science that requires experiential learning. It isn’t easy to time rotations so as to effectively be in two places at once. The problems on defense should improve as the Clippers internalize the movements required for Doc’s defensive scheme. But if that improvement isn’t obvious come the new year, I sure won’t be keeping my worries to myself.
3. Is it time to shake up the big man rotation?
Sohi: Yes. Byron Mullens is shooting 14.3 percent from beyond the arc and I’ve yet to see any indication that he’s ready to move closer to the rim. The (depressing) question at hand is this: Is Byron Mullens’ offense worse than Antawn Jamison’s defense? We’ll never know until we try both.
Laubhan: If by “shake up” you mean dust off the old Rolodex and find someone, somewhere, who can spell DeAndre and/or Blake while contributing a positive performance, then yeah, it’s time. The Clippers are making it work as is, and if the starting big men are going to post 35-40 minutes per game, the need for quality backups is sort of minimized. Still, LA needs more than what the bench bigs are providing: DNPs, clanked threes, and quick fouls.
Shagrin: Big man rotation. What big man rotation? Ryan Hollins is averaging a bit more than five minutes per game and Byron Mullens is averaging just twelve minutes. If Doc can realistically run his imported defensive schemes using Dudley and Barnes as the backup bigs, then it should be done. Big man rotation – harumph!
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