Clippers Vs. Rockets - Game Preview

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 04: Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers controls the ball against Kevin Martin #12 of the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on January 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Clippers won 117-89. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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21-13

21-16
Toyota Center
March 4th, 2012, 4:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Kyle Lowry
Randy Foye SG Kevin Martin
Caron Butler
SF Chandler Parsons
Blake Griffin
PF Luis Scola
DeAndre Jordan
C Samuel Dalembert

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

With four losses in their last six games, the Clippers are struggling more now than they have at any other point this season. Friday night in Phoenix they managed to lose a game that was winnable in the extreme. They played without any energy or purpose all game, and couldn't make shots to save their lives. Hopefully that game was a one-off and they'll play better in Houston tonight; they'll have to, because Houston is a much better team than Phoenix. There's not much point singling out players who need to play better than they did in Phoenix -- other the Kenyon Martin, it's pretty much all of them. The good news is that the Clippers beat Houston two months ago in one of their more impressive performances of the season, so they should have plenty of confidence against the Rockets.

The Antagonist:

Houston has lost their last two games, but had won four in a row before that. This is a team that is pretty difficult to get a handle on. Their leading scorer is Kevin Martin, but Martin has had six game in the last 14 where he scored less than 10 points -- of course, he also a 35 point game on Friday. Kyle Lowry has unexpectedly taken the step from solid pro to near All Star this season, while Luis Scola has come the other direction. Like Denver and Philadelphia, Houston relies heavily on their bench, though one key member of their second unit, Jordan Hill, is currently hurt. It's not unusual for coach Kevin McHale to leave his starters on the bench for most or even all of the fourth quarter if the second unit is playing well.

The Subplots

  • Tonight's Special Guest Recapper - Citizen John Raffo.
  • Key Rockets Metrics
    Pace: 92.0 (12th of 30 NBA Teams)
    Off Rtg: 104.6 (10th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 103.9 (17th of 30)
    Like the Clippers, the Rockets are better on offense than they are on defense. But they're not as elite on offense, and they're not as dismal on defense.
  • Key Clippers Metrics
    Pace: 89.8 (24th of 30)
    Off Rtg: 107.7 (4th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 105.3 (21st of 30)
  • Rebounding. The Clippers won the rebounding battle in a dozen straight games from February 4th until the end of the month -- and since March has started, they've been outrebounded in both games. There's no excuse for this team to get beaten on the boards (certainly not to Phoenix anyway).
  • Getting to the line. The Clippers have been to the line 8 and then 9 times in their last two games, their two lowest free throw totals of the season. The loss of Chauncey Billups certainly hurts in terms of generating free throws, but fewer than 10 is a clear indication of a team settling for jump shots. The Clippers need to take the ball strong to the hole and generate some free throws.
  • Parsons. The Rockets felt they got a steal back in 2009 when they drafted Chase Budinger in the second round and he became their starting small forward after they traded away Shane Battier last year. Well, they now have another second round pick, this time from 2011, who has replaced Budinger in the starting lineup.
  • No Stars. The Rockets are one of those teams with no real stars. I've long felt that Kevin Martin has been underrated, but the simple fact is that no one on the Rockets roster has ever made an All Star team. Of course, it was only a few years ago the the Rockets were built around two mega-stars, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. But injuries to both of them derailed that plan in Houston, and now the team is of necessity built around depth and team play rather than superstars.
  • Rockets off-season mission aborted. The Rockets tried to make some big, bold moves this summer (or rather fall/winter). They were a partner in the near-trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers, a deal that would have landed Pau Gasol in Houston. When the deal was scuttled by the league, it threw a wrench into Houston's plan to clear cap space to pursue a marquee center. When Nene and Marc Gasol both re-signed with their original teams, the Rockets were left with Samuel Dalembert as their big off-season move - hardly what Daryl Morey had in mind. At least Luis Scola and Kevin Martin didn't sulk their way out of town after the trade they were involved in fell through.Truthfully, I never much liked that trade from Houston's standpoint - maybe it makes sense if you can sign a big time free agent with the extra cap space, but losing Martin and Scola and picks just to acquire a 31 year old Pau seemed like a dubious decision.
  • Defending Martin. The Clippers knew that defending bigger guards would be an issue this year with their roster chock full of points and combo guards. Martin is 6'7", but he's never been a post player. So while he may be able to shoot over Randy Foye on the perimeter, there's little worry that he'll exploit his size advantage much around the basket.
  • Front court matchups. It will be interesting to see if Vinny Del Negro decides to defend Luis Scola with Griffin or with Jordan. Scola has every trick shot in the book, and will look to get Jordan to bite on pump fakes and other sleight of hand. It might be better to leave Griffin on Scola. On the other end, Scola can't guard Griffin -- Dalembert can try to use his length, but Griffin should be able to attack him with his quickness.
  • Griffin and the Rockets. No Western Conference team defended Blake Griffin more successfully than the Rockets last season. Houston held Griffin to fewer than 18 points per game, and under 40% shooting, both season lows for any team Griffin faced more than twice. Of course, much of that was due to the stellar defense of Chuck Hayes. Indeed, in the first meeting this season, Griffin scored 22 points on 10 of 15 shooting. So it seems like Hayes was the key to the Rockets success last season.
  • Stockpiling 2009 draft busts. In a bizarre coincidence (or is it?) the Rockets are seemingly stockpiling any and all draft busts from the 2009 draft. Four of the top 11 picks from that draft are now with the Rockets. Hasheem Thabeet (2nd pick), Jonny Flynn (6th), Jordan Hill (8th) and Terrence Williams (11th) have all joined the Rockets since the 2010 trade deadline. Ironically, the Rockets other starters are all low picks - Martin was a 26th pick, Scola 27th, Lowry 24th, and Parsons a second rounder.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    rocket

    n. A stupid person. Sarcastic reference to someone being a rocket scientist.


    That guy is a real rocket.
  • Get the Rockets perspective at The Dream Shake.
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