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Clippers at Houston - Game Preview and Open Thread

3-14 11-7
Toyota Center
December 3, 2008 - 5:30 PM
TV: FSN Prime Ticket
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Rafer Alston
Eric Gordon SG Luther Head
Al Thornton SF Ron Artest
Zach Randolph PF Luis Scola
Marcus Camby C Yao Ming

The Big Picture:

The Clippers almost got off to a great start on their road trip Tuesday night in Dallas. But instead of a wire-to-wire win against the Mavs, they suffered a complete meltdown in the final 5 minutes and left the Big D with a big L. They'll have to try to put it out of their heads, because the NBA schedule has them tipping off in Houston against the Rockets less than 22 hours later. It's beginning to feel silly writing about the potential of a 3 and 14 team. 3 and 14 they are! At least the games are exciting; in three games of the Zach Randolph era, the Clippers have a one point loss, a one point win, and a two point loss. Against Houston, LA will really miss Chris Kaman. He hasn't traditionally played well against Yao, though he did in their November meeting in LA. But at any rate, Yao is an almost impossible cover for either Marcus Camby (he's not strong enough) or Zach Randolph (he's not big enough) - so Kaman will be sorely missed. Randolph has back-to-back 27 point games, and Al Thornton has scored 27 and 23 in the last two. But the Clippers bench has been pretty anemic with Ricky Davis and Kaman not playing.

The Antagonist:

The Rockets are currently playing without Tracy McGrady, who is out with a knee injury. They've lost 2 of 3 games without him so far. Of course, when the Rockets and Clippers played earlier in the season, TMac was 0 for 5 with only 2 points, so the Rockets have already proven they can beat the Clippers without TMac. Just based on personnel, I'm saying that this year's Houston team sans TMac must be one of the ugliest teams to watch in the league. I don't like Yao's game - he's very good, but not particularly graceful or fun to watch. And I simply despise watching Ron Artest. He's very effective, but all brute force and strength. If basketball were more like gymnastics and there were style points, Houston would never win. Not without McGrady - not if I was judging. The Rockets are well rested for this game, having last played on Sunday. The Clippers of course are playing the second of back to back road games, though at least the travel from Dallas to Houston is pretty short.

The Subplots

  • Carlis Scoldry. In the first meeting between the Clippers and Rockets, Luis Scola and Carl Landry combined for 34 points and 16 rebounds from the power forward position. Needless to say, the Clippers can't afford to let those guys put up those kinds of numbers and expect to win.
    Get Ready for a Lot of Brian Skinner. Skinner played 20 minutes in the first meeting, and that was with Kaman healthy. Skinner did a very good job on Yao in that first matchup, so I expect him to get most if not all of the backup minutes at the bigs in this game.
    Countdown to Ron-Ron Trouble. We're 18 games into a new team for Ron Artest. Aren't we overdue for some sort of hijinx? It would be nice if he would get himself kicked out of this game or some such. The Clippers don't really have any answer for him. Al Thornton can't guard the guy.
    Problems down the stretch. The Clippers have played well enough to win several more games this season. Unfortunately, they have been unable to finish strong. They are the worst 4th quarter scoring team in the NBA, and 4 of their last 6 losses have come down to the final possessions. Of course, this was supposed to be a big reason that Baron Davis was going to help the Clippers - he was the clutch point guard the team needed down the stretch in tight games. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out that way. Baron was 1 for 6 in the fourth quarter in Dallas last night, and other than a couple of jump shots against Miami Saturday, he's mostly been a negative in clutch situations this season. The Clippers won't win many games if that doesn't change.
    Guard play. On paper, it would seem that the Clippers have the advantage in the backcourt, as Baron Davis and Eric Gordon go against Rafer Alston and Luther Head. Still, Skip has had some big games against the Clippers, and Gordon is just 19 so it may be too much to ask him to carry the team. But Baron really needs to have a big game in this one if the Clippers hope to pull out a win.
    Z-Bo. With back to back double-doubles, scoring 27 in each, it would seem that Zach Randolph is pretty comfortable running EB's plays. The guy can score the ball, and if he continues hitting his jump shot, he's going to keep putting up huge numbers. But he's going to have to work to keep Scola and Landry in check on the other end as well.