The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers meet up for the second time this season on Friday night. The Clippers pulled off the upset in the first matchup at home. Los Angeles is off to a mediocre 2-2 start to the season, while Houston has surprised a lot of people by starting 1-3.
Last season, Houston finished on top of the NBA with a 65-17 record. The Rockets cruised through the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Utah Jazz to set up a meeting with the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. It took seven games, but the Warriors knocked off the Rockets. Houston will need to pick it up quickly if they want to repeat last season’s success.
The Rockets injury list has been building up quite a bit to begin this season. Houston will be without Brandon Knight and James Harden on Friday night. The Rockets could also be missing Marquese Chriss, James Ennis, Nene Hilario, and Zhou Qi. Harden’s absence will really hurt, and the Rockets will need some players to step up if they want to win games while he is gone.
Los Angeles finished last season with a 42-40 record, which had them in tenth place of the Western Conference. The Clippers made a lot of moves that have led people to believe they are restocking for a rebuild. Los Angeles has not looked terrible to begin this season, but I believe the Clippers will drop towards the bottom of the standings as the season goes along.
Los Angeles and Houston met up four times last season. The first two matchups were in Los Angeles and were split one win a piece to each team. The Clippers took the first game 113-102 off of a 31-point performance by Lou Williams. The Rockets had James Harden drop 25 points in route to a 105-92 win.
The second two games of the season were held in Houston. The third game saw Eric Gordan drop 23 points off the bench for the second time in the season series. The Rockets were able to hold off the Clippers 101-96. Los Angeles took the final game of the season series in a high scoring affair. Austin Rivers and Lou Williams each had over 30 points, which was enough to beat James Harden’s 51 points.
In the first meeting between these two teams this season, Los Angeles pulled off a close 115-112 win on the Rockets. Houston was without Chris Paul, which hurt. Harden scored 31, but it was not enough. Tobias Harris led the Clippers in points with 23 points. The Clippers bench added 56 points in the win.
These two teams tied the season series last season and Los Angeles has started this year’s season series with a 1-0 record. The Rockets will be out to get revenge on Friday night. While the injuries will factor in, Chris Paul will be returning to the lineup. Houston’s Eric Gordan has also found success against the Clippers in the past. If he can put up a good night, I believe it will help give the Rockets the win.
Rockets Struggling Offense vs Clippers Solid Defense
A large part of Houston’s success last season was because of their strong offensive play. This season the Rockets have had difficulty putting up consistent numbers this season. Last season, the Rockets averaged 112 points per game. This season Houston has averaged 109 points per game. That number isn’t bad, but the teams the Rockets should have been able to put up some bigger games on the teams that they have played.
Los Angeles has played a real solid zone defense this season. The Clippers have had some solid opponents and held teams to an average of 107 points per game. I believe that Houston’s offense, if it gets clicking, can abuse the Clippers style. The quick ball movement and shooting can really mess with Los Angeles’ system. The addition of Chris Paul back in the lineup will help open the court.
The Rockets have now lost back to back games. Houston is a much better team than how they have started out and I believe they will turn it around soon. The Rockets will need some players to step up in Harden’s absence, but I believe they have the depth to do it. Either Carmelo Anthony or Eric Gordan will jump into the starting lineup.
Los Angeles lost their last game, which ended a two-game winning streak. The Clippers need some players to step up in the starting lineup if they want to maintain success. Los Angeles has three starters who average less than six points per game.
The Rockets are getting Chris Paul back, but they are losing James Harden. Without Harden, Houston still has the better lineup. The Rockets have struggled to begin the season, but they will bounce back at some point. I believe that they will be able to gain some momentum with a win against the Clippers on Friday night.
BetOnline has Houston favored by 3.5 points at home. On top of that, Houston has a better payout at -105 compared to Los Angeles +3.5 -115. If the Rockets had a more successful start, I believe they would be favored by more like 9.5 points. I believe the Rockets are going to dominate at home on Friday night and with the better value bet, Houston is the best bet.