Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Los Angeles Clippers

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After blowing out the Sacramento Kings the Rockets get ready for the second half of a late season back-to-back against the Clippers. Currently holding a record of 54-26, the Rockets have been taking precautions, resting key players, leading to just a six and four record over their last ten games. James Harden is the team leader in points and assists, at 29.3 and 11.3 per game, respectively, while Clint Capela has taken the lead in rebounding, with 8.1 boards a game. The Rockets rank 2nd in offensive rating, 15th in defensive rating and 3rd in overall net rating.

The Clippers are coming off of an impressive win in San Antonio, helping them in their chase for the fourth seed in the West. The Clippers are now 49-31, tied, record-wise, with the Utah Jazz for the West's fourth seed, and have won all of their last five, and eight of their last ten games. Blake Griffin leads the Clippers in points, with 21.7 a game, DeAndre Jordon leads them in rebounds with 13.7 a game and Chris Paul leads their team in assists, with 9.2 a game. The Clippers currently rank 5th in offensive rating, 13th in defensive rating and 6th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

The starting lineup for the Rockets on Monday is really anyone's guess, as the Rockets have been sitting certain key players in preparation for the playoffs. If we were to assume no players will sit out of Mondays game, we will likely see James Harden starting at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and Clint Capela at center, with Lou Williams and Eric Gordon sharing the role of sixth man.

While the Clippers' starting unit isn't missing any players due to injury, their bench will be without Austin Rivers until the first round of the playoffs. The Clippers will likely start Chris Paul at point guard, J.J. Redick at shooting guard, Luc Mbah a Moute at small forward, Blake Griffin at power forward, and DeAndre Jordan at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Rust vs Rest – After giving the day off to multiple different players over their last three games, the Rockets may look to use this game against a playoff competitor as a dress rehearsal, playing all their guys in an attempt to prepare for the tough Western Conference playoffs. Watch to see if the Rockets choose to continue to rest their guys, or play them in order to avoid rust in the playoffs.

  • Sweep? – Having won the last two match ups against the Clippers, the Rockets are in position to sweep the season series between the teams for the first time since 2008. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to assert their position over the Clippers this season in their final match up of the season

  • Troy Williams – When Sam Dekker went down with a broken hand a few games ago, many of us were worried about where his combo forward minutes would go, with no clear answer on the roster. So far, in limited minutes, Troy Williams has looked capable of stepping into Dekker's role, shooting over 40% on 3s and averaging nearly 14 points and 5 rebounds per 36 minutes, to go along with solid defense. Watch to see if Troy Williams is just a flash in the pan, or if Morey struck gold on his D-League find.

Prediction and Tip-Off

I think the Rockets lose this one, as they have nothing important to play for, are on a back to back, and the Clippers are clawing for the home court advantage in the playoffs.

Tip-off will be at 9:30 P.M. Central Time in Los Angeles on monday, April 9th. The game will be televised on TNT with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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