The Clippers have two games left on their nine-game homestand, but they’ve passed the meat of the schedule. The two remaining contests are against teams with the second- and third-worst records in the league, starting with the Rockets tonight.
That doesn’t mean that the Clippers can gloss over this particular matchup. Just over a week ago, LA was riding high off a victory against the Bucks and gave away a game on the second night of a back-to-back against the Magic, incidentally the team with the fourth-worst record in the league. There is precedent for the Clippers letting their guard down against a team further down in the standings.
But Houston’s record isn’t exactly indicative of the team’s recent run of play, as the Rockets just beat the Mavericks and had close calls against the Suns and Pelicans. This team has a ton of athleticism, and Kevin Porter Jr. has shown the ability to get anywhere he wants do on the floor. Their offense post-trade deadline has actually been in the top half of the league thanks to the spacing afforded by playing Kelly Olynyk and Christian Wood together. Both can dive and pop after setting screens, making Houston’s pick-and-roll attack a real weapon, even without John Wall available.
When: Friday, April 9 at 7 p.m. PT
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal
Opposing perspective: The Dream Shake
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers (35-18): Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac, Patrick Beverley, Paul George
Rockets (14-37): Kelly Olynyk, Jae’Sean Tate, Christian Wood, Avery Bradley, Kevin Porter Jr.
Clippers: Serge Ibaka (lower back) — OUT
Rockets: Dante Exum (right calf), Eric Gordon (right groin), Danuel House Jr. (right ankle), David Nwaba (right wrist), John Wall (left achilles) — OUT
The problem for the Rockets is that the Clippers are also hitting their stride at this moment, with a top-10 offense and defense over the same two weeks. The only real worry for LA, as mentioned before, is the team letting its foot off the gas.
It would be understandable if the Clippers didn’t field their full roster tonight, perhaps letting Paul George get some more rest with his sore foot or giving Marcus Morris Sr. some time off with his recent knee flare up. However, that simply means more time for Terance Mann and Luke Kennard, each of whom has proven up to the challenge in extended minutes. This game could also be an opportunity to get DeMarcus Cousins some run against his most recent former team, and maybe even a first look at Malik Fitts, who the team signed to a 10-day contract today.
This won’t have the same fireworks as last night, but it should be fun to see the Clippers lean on their depth a little bit more. Enjoy the game!