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Clippers @ Houston - Game Preview

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Toyota Center
March 28th, 2009, 5:30 PM
KTLA Channel 5, No radio
Probable starters:
Mike Taylor
PG Aaron Brooks
Eric Gordon
SG Ron Artest
Al Thornton
SF Shane Battier
Zach Randolph
PF Luis Scola
Chris Kaman
C Yao Ming

The Back Story:

  • November 7, 2008 in LA - Houston 92 - Clippers 83   box score   recap
  • December 3, 2008 in Houston - Houston 103 - Clippers 96   box score   recap
  • December 13, 2008 in LA -  Clippers 95 - Houston 82   box score   recap

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have only a handful of quality wins this season.  When they beat the Rockets last December, on the heels of beating the Trailblazers in Portland, we thought things were starting to click.  Nine days later, Zach Randolph got hurt, and then Baron Davis got hurt, and then everyone else got hurt, and then the wheels came off, and then the axels came off, and then the entire chassis came off.  But that Houston win was pretty fun.  Good times.  It was, in fact, one of the only convincing wins against a good team all season.  I sure hope the Rockets don't remember that.  They could be mad.  With Marcus Camby (ankle) and Baron Davis (stomach flu) likely sitting out, the Clippers will have Mike Taylor and Chris Kaman in the starting lineup.  Truthfully, that's not bad from a matchup standpoint.  Taylor will be opposite the ultra quick Aaron Brooks, while Kaman is clearly the best Clipper to be facing Yao Ming.  The bench will be short, but if Zach Randolph can abuse Luis Scola the way he did in LA where he went for 30, the Clippers could keep this respectable.

The Antagonist:

The Rockets, perhaps more than any other team, have made the Clippers look bad in recent years.  Not because they're beaten them badly (which they mostly have), but because they're played through adversity while the Clippers have folded.  When Yao was lost for the season late last February, they went out and won 10 straight anyway, and closed the season goign 19 and 7 without their all pro center.  When Tracey McGrady opted for surgery earlier this year, most people expected the Rockets to fade.  Instead, they've been one of the hottest teams in the league, at 15-5 since the all star break.  The Rockets do it with defense (Ron Artest and Shane Battier are two of the best on ball defenders in the entire league) and with Yao on offense.  And with a whole bunch of players who know their roles.  It's also possible that Rick Adelman can coach.  I wonder if Sacramento regrets getting rid of that guy.

The Subplots:

  • Mike Taylor, leading scorer.  Taylor has led the Clippers in scoring in back to back games.  With Baron Davis suffering from the stomach flu or perhaps food poisoning, Taylor will likely get the start again tonight.  Can he keep up his hot shooting?  Perhaps more importantly, can he get any help from anyone?
  • Minor rest difference.  The Clippers are playing their final game of a 6 game road trip, are playing their tenth game in 15 nights, and played last night in San Antonio.  The Rockets haven't played since Tuesday.  Maybe the Rockets will be rusty, but it's more likely that they'll be rested while the Clippers will be playing uphill.
  • Finishing Road Trips.  The Clippers have been terrible in many, many different situations this season.  But perhaps none so bad as the last game of a long road trip. December 20, at Milwaukee lost by 34.  January 9 at New Orleans, lost by 27.  Feb. 9 at Charlotte, lost by 21.  It doesn't bode well for this game.
  • Big Challenge for Gordon.  The knock we often here on Eric Gordon (David Thorpe trotted it out again a couple weeks ago) is that he's undersized at the two guard.  I think that's more than a little misplaced, especially when you consider (a) his strength and (b) the fact that he's third in the NBA in blocked shots among shooting guards.  BUT, having said that, the Rockets play two very big wings in Ron Artest and Shane Battier.  It's hard to say which one of them is the two and which is the three, but Gordon will likely draw Battier and Al Thornton will have to deal with the beast.  Battier's not a great post up player, but he's got a good five inches on him, so it will be a challenge for him.  EJ will also have to cope with the defense of one of those two guys - ether one will quite likely be the best defender he's seen this year.  If he gets to double figures in this game he will have earned it.
  • Kaman versus Yao.  Yao used to completely own Chris Kaman.  Last season, Kaman had a couple of decent games against the big guy.  With Camby likely out, Kaman will hopefully be in a position to play big minutes tonight.  Let's hope he's getting into game shape.
  • Superstar for one game.  Aaron Brooks.  Before the 2007 draft, everything I read said that Jared Jordan totally outplayed Aaron Brooks in the pre-draft camps.  Brooks was a surprise first round pick of the Rockets, Jordan was the Clippers second rounder, 45th overall.  Brooks is starting for a playoff team, Jordan is starting for a D-League team.  I guess Daryl Morey knows what he's doing.
  • Movie Quote: 

    You know, I like history too, and maybe when this is all over you and I can stop by the souvenir shop together but right now I just... I just wanna find some rockets!

    Stanley Goodspeed - The Rock (1996).  You might be surprised how many times the word 'rockets' is used in Michael Bay movies.  Then again, you might not.  I have to admit - while I know I'm supposed to despise Michael Bay movies and how some folks think he's the devil and all, I find his movies wildly entertaining.  The Rock was absurdly implausible but well made, taut and suspenseful.  I'm OK with that.  The question of Nicholas Cage's transformation from Oscar winner to action figure is a subject for another time.
  • Get the Rockets perspective at The Dream Shake.