Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets
7:30 p.m. PST
February 26, 2014
I also stopped by Red94, our Houston Rockets sister site, to offer insights into the Clippers since last these teams met.
1. True or false: Blake Griffin has become a better player than Dwight Howard.
Michael Pina, Red94, (@MichaelVPina): Out of everyone in the league, Blake Griffin may be having the best February. He commanded the All-Star game in a way that was somehow both predictable and unreal. Is he having a better season than Dwight Howard? That’s certainly up for debate. Is he a better player? No. Howard’s still a better rebounder and far more imposing on the defensive end.
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): False. Griffin is significantly more versatile on offense and just generally more exciting. But Howard’s impact on the defensive end is still too much to ignore. I love a big man who can control a game without scoring a ton, which Howard can do. That said, Griffin’s growth suggests he could end up having the better career.
Luke Laubhan, (@lukelaubhan): My initial reaction says Howard is better, but that idea is based on Dwight’s Orlando-era credentials as a top-five player. He’s not that guy anymore; regardless, Blake has never, and might never, reach that apex. Then again, based solely on the 2013-14 season, Griffin has surpassed the player Dwight’s become. Blake scores more and he’s more reliable, but it’s his playmaking that sets him apart. So…true.
2. The Rockets have an aversion to mid-range shots more than any other NBA team, so why did they want Rajon Rondo so badly?
Pina: Aside from the fact that Rondo no longer struggles with his shot, there are more ways to impact the game of basketball than scoring. He’s a brilliant player with profound court vision and the rare ability to place teammates in a position to succeed nearly every time he passes them the ball. He’s also a four-time All-Star in his prime, which, one would think, trumps Daryl Morey’s team-wide stylistic preference for threes and layups.
James: They didn’t want him THAT badly, or they would have made the trade. Look, a team with Rondo and Howard (and depending on the trade specifics, Asik and/or Beverly) could have been devastating defensively, so I understand the Rondo-allure — he’s basically James Harden’s polar opposite. But Houston probably made the right move by sticking with what works: guys who can make shots.
Laubhan: When healthy, Rondo brings other things to the table: surly championship swagger, open looks for teammates, steals and transition buckets, hella Connect Four game. The Rockets could slot Rondo alongside Harden to compensate for some of the Beard’s less fearsome defensive attributes. Also, Rajon would be the ideal on-court arbiter, guiding the ball into Dwight or to Houston’s sharpshooters, as needed.
3. Over/under 228 total points scored Wednesday night (the average scoring total between the Rockets and Clippers in their first two matchups).
Pina: Over. Despite both defensive units playing far above league average, the offenses in Houston and Los Angeles are firing on all cylinders. Both teams will look to push the pace and avoid operating in the half-court.
James: Under. The Clippers are tops in the league at defending the three. And Howard on Griffin (if they match up) and Beverly on Chris Paul could slow the offense for the Clippers — especially since I don’t see Matt Barnes (or Hedu Turkoglu) spewing hot fire forever. The Clippers’ incendiary shooting is part of the reason Paul has 39 assists and only 2 turnovers his last 3 games. Yikes. Meanwhile, over that same stretch, he’s shot just 15-for-35 from the field (and he’s only 16-for-45 since the All-Star break).
Laubhan: Under. All those points were scored in the fourth and seventh games of the season – back then, Blake didn’t know the meaning of the word “strong-side,” and Dwight was moving like a 50-year-old guy in a pickup game. Things are different now for both teams, and the specter of playoff seeding will amplify the defensive intensity. There will be threes, though.