Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Los Angeles Clippers

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Following a chippy blowout victory over the Dallas Mavericks, the Rockets head back home to face the Los Angeles Clippers for the first time this season. The Rockets are led in scoring and assists by James Harden, at 27.7 points and 11.9 assists, and in rebounds by Clint Capela, at 8.0 rebounds a game. The Rockets are currently ranked 3rd in offensive rating, 17th in defensive rating, and 4th in net rating.

The Clippers have struggled as of late, falling to 22-12 after a hot, 14-2 start. The Clippers are led in scoring by Blake Griffin, at 21.2 points per game, in assists by Chris Paul, at 9.5 assists, and in rebounds by DeAndre Jordon, at 13.2 rebounds per game. So far this season, the Clippers rank 4th in offensive rating, 6th in defensive rating, and 5th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

With Clint Capela still sidelined with a fractured fibula, the Rockets starting lineup will continue to be: James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and either Nene Hilario or Montrezl Harrell at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes.

The Clippers have been recently hit with a slew of injuries, resulting in a four game losing streak, with Blake Griffin (knee), Chris Paul (hamstring), and JJ Redick (hamstring) all missing most of those games. Chris Paul will not be back in action against the Rockets, while Redick will be a game time decision and Blake Griffin sitting out. The Clippers are likely to start Raymond Felton at point guard, JJ Redick at shooting guard, Luc Mbah a Moute at small forward, Wesley Johnson at power forward, and DeAndre Jordon at center, with Austin Rivers replacing Redick, if he is unable to play.

Three Things to Watch

  • Cushion for the 3rd seed – Due to the Clippers recent skid, the Rockets are 2.5 games above the Clippers for the third spot in the Western Conference. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to extend their cushion over the Clippers to 3.5 games.

  •  Take advantage – The Clippers may be missing two of their starters on Friday. Watch to see if Harden and the Rockets are able to both defend a team lacking offensive fire power, and attack a team missing one of the best point guard defenders in the league.

  • New Streak? – After dropping a couple of games after their 10 game win streak, the Rockets have won two in a row, in dominating fashion. Watch to see if the Rockets are ready to begin another win streak, while facing one of the better teams in the NBA.

Prediction and Tip-Off

The Rockets should be able to take advantage of an injured Clippers team, even if Redick returns. I predict the Rockets will win, and move to 25-9.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in Houston on Friday, December 30th. The game will be televised on NBA TV and ROOT Sports, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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