With just 20 games left of the season, Tyronn Lue’s Clippers are on a mission to make the playoffs — more preferably avoiding the play-in tournament. Their first quest comes against the Houston Rockets, the 15th-seeded team in the West suffering a tragic eight-game losing streak.
The Clippers, hot off a victory against the Los Angeles Lakers, will look to go into their final 20-game stretch with a win.
When: Sunday, February 27 at 4 p.m. PT
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
How to watch/listen: ATTSN-SWBSSC, KBME/KAMA-HD2KLAC/KTMZ (RADIO)
Opposing perspective: The Dream Shake
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
Rockets: Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., Eric Gordon, Jae’Sean Tate, Christian Wood
Clippers: Norman Powell, Jay Scrubb, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston — OUT
Rockets: Kevin Porter Jr. — QUESTIONABLE; Usman Garuba, Daishen Nix, Trevelin Queen — OUT
Their key to success? Offensive firepower.
The last time these two teams faced off — just before the All-Star break — Luke Kennard and the Clippers wreaked havoc on the Rockets with a 142-point bomb. Should they want to do so again, the team will need to get hot from the start, exploiting Houston’s defense.
Ranked dead last on both defensive rating (116.4) and opponent FG percent (48.4 percent), the Rockets do not have the most functional team defense nor a group of the best on-ball individual defenders. So, if the Clippers can find a way to move the rock around the defense and find open looks inside the paint and behind the arc, scoring won’t be of concern. For reference, 94.4 percent of the 18 three-pointers they made were unassisted the last time these teams faced off.
One of the main motors behind the team’s offense could be Luke Kennard.
He has been quite the juggernaut for the Clippers in the last few games, draining 16 of 21 three-point attempts in the last three games. Against a weak-defending backcourt of Dennis Schroder and Jalen Green, Kennard should be able to navigate through screens and around the defense for easy looks from downtown.
That doesn’t mean he will be the team’s sole offensive weapon.
Whether it’d quick flushes from Ivica Zubac, buckets from a hustling Terance Mann, or a handful of tough buckets from Amir Coffey, the Clippers have plenty of scoring options to help them finish on top of the Rockets after a hard-fought 48 minutes.
There are still, admittedly, many things the Clippers can improve upon from their last few outings, one of which is their focus on the offensive end. We saw plenty of mistakes from the team being sloppy with the ball throughout last night’s games. We also saw Reggie Jackson give up a reprehensible mistake in the final seconds against the Lakers — most likely due to a lack of focus. These mistakes make the Clippers much more vulnerable to teams beating us down the court for easy looks at the rim. And that much easier to beat.
The Clippers, by hook or crook, will look to extend their winning streak to three.