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Clippers-Rockets Preview: Another test on the road

The Clippers face the Rockets in Houston tonight, the sixth game of the Clips current seven game roadie. Houston has been playing without center Dwight Howard of late, but are winners of three games in a row.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

2014/2015 NBA Regular Season

November 28th, 2014, 5:00 PM
Toyota Center
NBA-TV, Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
4-1 East 6-0
5-4 West 6-3
4-3 Home 6-2
5-2 Road 6-1
3-5 .500+ 4-2
6-0 .500- 8-1
7-3 L10 8-2
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Isaiah Canaan
J.J. Redick SG James Harden
Reggie Bullock SF Trevor Ariza
Blake Griffin PF Donatas Motiejunas
DeAndre Jordan C Tarik Black
Advanced Stats
96.1 (11th of 30) Pace 96.61 (8th of 30)
107.5 (5th of 30) ORtg 100.5 (23rd of 30)
104.5 (17th of 30) DRtg 94.6 (1st of 30)
Chris Douglas-Roberts (Achilles) out
Dwight Howard (knee) doubtful
Matt Barnes (calf) doubtful
Patrick Beverley (hamstring) doubtful

Terrence Jones (nerve inflammation) out

The Back Story (The Clippers swept the Rockets 4-0 last season):

Date Venue Final Recap Box
11/04/13 Los Angeles HOU 118 LAC 137 Recap Box
11/09/13 Houston LAC 107 HOU 94 Recap Box
02/26/14 Los Angeles HOU 93 LAC 101 Recap Box
03/29/14 Houston LAC 118 HOU 107 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers gave the Rockets all they could handle last season, with Houston's lack of depth up front usually resulting in big nights from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. But alas, it is a new season, and with a new season comes a whole new set of things to worry about. The Clippers are 4-1 on this current road trip, but lost their only real test thus far in flamboyant fashion against Memphis. They have a chance to get a win against a different conference rival tonight, who happens to be a little banged up banged up. With Dwight Howard out, it opens up the middle for a slew of opportunities to score in the paint for these jumper-happy Clippers, and a gives them better shot at getting a win against an actual good team.

The wing will surely be an issue for the Clippers tonight, with Matt Barnes out and Reggie Bullock forced to go against Trevor Ariza, one of the better wing defenders in the league. Similarly, without Barnes, I suppose it'll be a combo of Bullock, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford charged with keeping the third-leading scorer in the league, James Harden, under wraps. Fun!

The Antagonist:

The Rockets have their share of roster issues, but have managed to carve out a pretty good record for themselves. Despite recent injuries to Howard and point guard Patrick Beverley and limited help off the bench, Houston has been doing the exact thing the Clippers haven't--getting the wins they're supposed to get (minus a suspicious loss to the other LA team). Granted, Houston's schedule hasn't been especially difficult so far this season, but you know what they say. You're only as good as your record--and theirs is good.

The Rockets' bench struggles to find opportunities to score, and their lack of size up front hurts them. But, the Rockets are the best defensive team in the NBA this season and have one of the league's most explosive scorers on their side, so the Clippers will have their work cut out for them.

The Subplots:

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Rockets lead the league in defensive efficiency (in the good way), so the Clippers cannot afford any lapses in scoring and get themselves into one of those "oh no let's try and claw our way back into this game" situations. Similarly, James Harden will be carrying the brunt of the scoring load for Houston, so the key for the Clippers is trying to find a way to slow him down offensively while maintaining steady offensive pressure of their own.
  • Injuries. Dwight? Dwight. Try writing a preview for a team not knowing whether their cornerstone guy will play or not. Today, Kevin McHale all but confirmed that Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley will both sit out tonight, saying he wants them to get a practice in before they hit the floor. For the Clippers, it looks like Matt Barnes will be sidelined once again with that calf strain.
  • Bench play. Rockets are seriously lacking depth because of injuries right now, especially in the front court, so it's the Clipper subs time to shine. But even so, the Rockets have managed to win three straight while getting limited production out of their bench.
  • Turnovers. The Rockets commit the third-most turnovers per game in the NBA, and if they turn the ball over against the Clippers, it's about to (hopefully) be Lob City, baby.
  • Contain Harden. ?????????
  • The Questionable Blogger. See my Q&A with Matt Rothstein of The Dream Shake here, and my answers to his questions here.
  • Connections. DeAndre Jordan, like Beyonce, is a Houston native. Rockets SF Trevor Ariza is from Los Angeles and played at Westchester High School with Bobby Brown, who was briefly a Clipper in 2010. Ariza also played his lone year of college basketball at UCLA.
  • Wikipedia entry. The Rockets are an American rock band from Detroit, Michigan founded by guitarist Jimmy McCarty and drummer Johnny "Bee" Badanjek, both former members of the group Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. Along with slide and rhythm guitarist Dennis Robbins, bassist John Fraga, and lead vocalist David Gilbert, the Rockets reached their pinacle of success in 1979 with a Top 40 hit, a cover of the Fleetwood Mac song "Oh Well", and an appearance on the T.V. series The Midnight Special.