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Clippers vs Rockets Preview: Finding the Right Track

The Rockets have been a disaster this year. The Clippers hope to continue their misery as they get a semblance of a winning rhythm going.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2015-16 NBA Regular Season
Houston Rockets (34-33)

Los Angeles Clippers (42-24)
March 16, 2016 — 6:30 PM PT
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
ESPN, Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
34-33 Record 42-24
11-14 East 20-8
23-19 West 22-16
8-7 Division 7-5
27-6 Home 22-12
18-14 Road 20-11
15-21 .500+ 17-19
19-12 .500– 25-5
4-2 OT 4-1
6-4 L10 5-5
Projected Starters
Patrick Beverley PG Chris Paul
James Harden SG J.J. Redick
Trevor Ariza SF Luc Mbah Moute
Donatas Motiejunas PF Jeff Green
Dwight Howard C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('14-'15)
100.17 (7th) Pace 98.27 (14th)
104.7 (8th) OffRtg 101.1 (7th)
105.7 (23rd) DefRtg 100.5 (6th)
-1.0 (16th) NetRtg 4.9 (5th)
Injury Report

Terrence Jones (Illness) Unknown

Sam Dekker (tightness) Day-to-Day

Blake Griffin (Hand) Out

Paul Pierce (toe) Day-to-Day

The Situation

The Clippers continue their difficult road trip. Tonight is the second of a back-to-back These games are never easy, especially when on the road against quality teams. Last night's loss doesn't really help. Yet the Clippers must solider and succeed if they want any hope of getting the 3rd seed. The Oklahoma City Thunder haven't been playing that great of late either (4-6 in last 10), but the Clippers need to still win games (consistently) in order to take advantage of this opportunity.

The Opponent

Dwight Howard and James Harden are players that any franchise would be content to build around. It's the chemistry however that has dragged the team down. Houston fired its coach and has descended into finger pointing and uninspired play. Dwight Howard is widely speculated as potentially leaving the team this offseason. While James Harden has turned his play around, the team remains a .500-ish team. The Rockets did however blow a depleted Memphis Grizzlies out by nearly 50 points. Fun observations: in that blow out, Josh Smith played zero minutes. The new focus of the Rockets' bench has been Michael Beasley. Coming off an MVP year in China, Beasley has picked up his NBA career right where he left off from China with an absurd usage rate: 33.4%. That limited sample size is larger than Harden's usage rate (32.8%).

The Focus

The Houston Rockets average the most 3-point shot attempts per game in the NBA at 31.2 attempts per game (at 34.4%). [Golden State averages 30.9 shots per game (at 41.4%). So Golden State still averages about two more made 3's per game than second place Houston for makes per game.] The Clippers are 9th in attempts (26.7) and 6th in makes (9.7).

Thus it seems the game will be, in large part, decided by which team is making and defending the 3 point shot better. The Rockets lead the seasonal series 2-1 right now. In each game, the team that shot the 3 point shot better (percentage wise) won. In the three games combined, the Clippers have attempted 97 3-point shots. That's over 32 attempts per game against the Rockets. Houston has responded with 87 attempts in the three games.