Los Angeles Clippers at Houston Rockets
5:00 p.m. PST
March 29, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket/NBATV
1. Do the Clippers or Rockets finish with a higher seed in the West?
Mitchell Felker, Red94, (@Mitchell_Red94): I think the Clippers will hold off the Rockets, even if just by the tie breaker. L.A. seems to have a slightly tougher schedule (@PHO, DAL, OKC, @POR) down the stretch than Houston (@BKN, @TOR, OKC, SA), but the Rockets play the bulk of their remaining games on the road. The Rockets-Spurs game could be a difference maker though, because depending on the status of the race for the one-seed, San Antonio may be resting their big guns by April 14.
Michael Pina, Red94, (@MichaelVPina): I would’ve selected the Clippers before Patrick Beverley’s injury, so they’re the definitive choice now. They’re better, have just three road games the rest of the way, and…did I mention they’re better?
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): The Clippers. I think they have a slightly easier schedule the rest of the way and are playing better basketball currently. Also, in the likely scenario that the teams tie, the Clippers have the tiebreaker and would be awarded the higher seed. Who knows? Maybe I’m biased. I just feel that with J.J. Redick on the mend and the bench beginning to find itself, the Clippers are jelling at the right time.
2. Has Dwight Howard reclaimed the spot as best center in the NBA?
Felker: Was it ever not his? Howard took so much flak for his Orlando exit and then the Lakers fiasco that the general public forgot how good he was. But in reality, his numbers last year weren’t that far off from his career averages. The Marc Gasol/Roy Hibbert flirtation last season was cute, but no other center has the statistical or on-court impact that Dwight does. Having said that, Joakim Noah would get my vote for All-NBA first team for this season. His degree of difficulty this season has been off the charts.
Pina: Yes. He’s a Defensive Player of the Year candidate (favorite?) and low-post nuclear weapon. Few players rebound the ball better or snuff out hopeful floaters in the paint, and once again his game is thriving above the rim. There aren’t five players in the league (at any position) who impact both ends of the court the way Howard does.
Buha: Did he ever give it up? Even in a “down” year last season, Howard was probably the game’s best center. Others have challenged his throne, but Joakim Noah (scoring), Marc Gasol (passivity) and Roy Hibbert (rebounding) all have significant flaws that prevent them from boasting as complete of skill sets. Howard’s been the game’s best center for six years now, and I don’t see that changing soon.
3. Is this game a “must-win” for the Rockets?
Felker: I don’t think any game remaining on the Rockets’ schedule would be classified as “must-win”. In fact, I think most Houston fans would prefer to see LA hold onto the No. 3 seed so that the Rockets could avoid a second-round matchup with the Thunder. The Spurs aren’t much of a reprieve, but Houston is 3-0 against San Antonio this year and 0-3 versus OKC. Then again, I could see everyone in the middle of the table “rest” a few games to dodge the Memphis-sized boulder moving up the standings.
Pina: Not to have such a “get off my lawn” response, but the only must-win games are those that can literally end your season. If Houston loses tonight, they’re still a dangerous playoff team—though they may no longer be contending for a title thanks to Beverley’s meniscus
Buha: No. No regular season game is a “must-win.” However, it holds major significance for the Rockets, as the Clippers hold the tiebreaker, as aforementioned. Houston needs to try to finish with the better record than L.A. to give themselves an easier Round 1 opponent and avoid San Antonio in the semifinals. The problem, of course, is the Clips are trying to do the same thing. I sense a grudge match.