For some Clipper fans, the matchup against the Houston Rockets brings back bad memories — memories of a 3-1 lead that turned into a 4-3 playoff loss in 2015, or memories of the confrontation in the tunnel of the then-STAPLES Center. Thankfully, the year is 2022, and the matchup between the Clippers and the Rockets pits the 8th place LA team against the last place team in the Western Conference.
The 15-41 record for the Rockets is not too big of a surprise for NBA fans and insiders alike, after the James Harden trade that sent him to Brooklyn left the franchise in a position to start from scratch and rebuild around their young talents. They hold the worst defensive rating and turnover percentage in the league, with an offensive rating that isn’t far ahead. For them, a win against the Clippers isn’t expected, especially when looking at LA’s recent games and their overall trend in team performance.
In their last three games, the Clippers went 2-1, dominating the Warriors following a nailbiter win in Dallas, all before dropping a close one to the elite Suns in Phoenix. Those two wins demonstrated their knack for shutting down a supporting cast led by a superstar — Stephen Curry in Golden State and Luka Doncic in Dallas. Even their loss in Phoenix showed how their grit and competitiveness can keep them in games even when the odds give them little chance of a victory.
When: Thursday, February 15 at 7:30 p.m. PT
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 ESPN
Opposing perspective: The Dream Shake
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann, Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac
Rockets: Jalen Green, Dennis Schroder, Eric Gordon, Jae’Sean Tate, Alperen Sengun
Clippers: Norman Powell, Jay Scrubb, Paul George, Jason Preston, Kawhi Leonard — OUT
Rockets: Kevin Porter Jr., Christian Woods — DAY-TO-DAY; John Wall, Usman Garuba — OUT
However, the Clippers still must approach the matchup with the same urgency they approached their games against the Mavericks, Warriors, and Suns. After all, their subpar offensive rating isn’t much better than that of the Rockets, who also happen to boast better rebounding numbers. If they stick to their gameplan and work to ensure their weak spots aren’t exploited, then the Clippers may very well continue their recent string of success, the loss in Phoenix being simply a blip in a longer stretch of comebacks and competition.