Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets
12:30 p.m. PST
March 15, 2015
FOX Prime Ticket/ ABC
Video of the Day
A trip down memory lane.
1. What’s the likelihood we see this matchup in the first round?
Brandon Tomyoy, (@dingyu): Even with as close the standings are and as wild as the west has been, the odds have to be high simply based on how likely both teams are to stay within the 3 – 6 seed range. Portland would be the next most likely matchup for the Clippers, but they’ve been riding a hot streak lately, which again pushes the odds towards a Rockets and Clippers first round. For LAC, this isn’t a bad thing considering how well they’ve played against Houston in the BGCP era.
Roscoe Whalan, (@RoscoeWhalan7): If the playoffs started today they would. There’s so many fluctuating variables in the West. Right now, realistically, Houston has the ability to go as high as second but fall as far as seventh. The Clippers meanwhile, despite all of the craziness out West have somehow occupied the fifth seed for quite some time now. If this were the case, it’d be a hell of a series.
Andy Liu, (@dingyu): It seems rather likely, doesn’t it? The Clippers are ahead of the Dallas Mavericks by half a game and the San Antonio Spurs by a full game. The Mavs are in shambles and Blake Griffin looks like he should be back for a final stretch run. It would be a fantastic first-round matchup that I’d favor the Clippers in unless Dwight Howard comes back healthy.
2. The Rockets have dropped a couple of games of late: is it cause for concern or just a couple of games in mid-March?
Tomyoy: It’s hard to call it a slump when those two losses came during back-to-back games against two good teams. As I mentioned earlier, Portland has been riding a hot streak, and speaking of hot streaks, the Jazz have the best record in the league since the All-Star Break. When also considering elevation as a factor — those back-to-back games that involve trips either to and from Utah or Denver can’t be a favorite among players, can they? — they look more like schedule losses than any indicator of a Houston slump.
Whalan: I think it is a case of the mid-March struggles. It’s that point in the season where attention somewhat turns to playoffs and the regular season schedule starts to wear teams down. Harden’s been carrying the load offensively for a while and the losses have come to good teams like Atlanta. Dwight’s eventual return will surely help them.
Liu: The Houston Rockets are underrated on defense and very much overrated on offense. They ranked outside the top-10 on offense and inside the top-3 on defense. The reliance on James Harden is troubling when they don’t have enough shooters to complement him on the outside. It might come back to haunt them in the postseason when their scrambling defense might have trouble.
3. Will Spencer Hawes ever break out of this funk?
Tomyoy: The things that concern me the most when watching Hawes are how frustrated he looks when misses shots and how reluctant he is to take open shots. At this point, it’s no longer an expectations issue because any ideas of him putting up numbers like he did last season are long gone, and just trying to make sure he can still contribute to any benefit of the team. At the same time, I’m very big on the idea that all end points are arbitrary. It’s not realistic to put a finger on when he can turn things around and creep towards the mean, but considering he’s signed for another three seasons, I’m more concerned with his overall long-term confidence rather than what he’s done in this season to date.
Whalan: A small forward trapped in a center’s body? When he catches, pump fakes on the perimeter and then puts it on the floor, the whole world feels like it slows down. In the beginning, I thought it was adjustment. In his first 42 games (all as a reserve) he averaged just 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in 18 minutes while shooting just 42% from the field and 33% from deep. However, since Blake went down with injury and he’s been starting things are identically bad: 36% from the field, 28% from deep, 7.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in nearly 25 minutes per game. Sigh.
Liu: This is a funk?