Rockets vs Clippers:
There are some intriguing storylines in a potential Clippers/Rockets postseason series. Will Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and company make the leap to the next level? Can James Harden overcome is dreadful NBA finals performance last year? Will the Clippers bench be as effective come playoff time?
The Season Series: The Clippers have won both games the two teams have played this season utilizing the formula that has propelled them to victory much of the season, balanced scoring from the starting unit combined with big efforts off the bench. The Clippers are one of the most balanced teams in the league with the Rockets being the polar opposite. Whereas the Rockets rely heavily on James Harden to be “on” to win games the Clippers have so much depth that they have multiple ways to win games.
In the first matchup the Clippers used huge games from Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe combined with the typical consistency from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to win by eight in Houston. They used a big third quarter to run off to a twelve point lead they never relinquished. In the return matchup a month later, in LA, the Rockets were without James Harden. The Clippers starting unit had a significant advantage over the Rockets starting unit with all the starting five right around a +20. Houston struggled mightily from the field and the game was not as close as the ten point margin would make it seems.
Key Matchup for the Clippers: Willie Green and Jamal Crawford. For all his success offensively as the driving force to Houston’s success James Harden simply can’t guard anyone. Whether it’s an issue of ability or lack of will he’s a detriment to the team on the defensive end of the court. The combination of Willie Green and Jamal Crawford will force Harden to work on defense, exploiting his poor defense while making him work extra on the other end of the court, potentially affecting his offense. The easiest and quickest way to beat the Rockets is to neutralize Harden.
Key Matchup for the Rockets: May seem like a broken record but the obvious choice is Harden. There isn’t a team in the league currently that relies more on one player to generate such a large majority of its offense. The Rockets have some nice additional parts around Harden but what drives their key victories, and big losses, is how effective Harden is. When he’s hitting his shots and providing points the Rockets are an extremely difficult club to keep up with.
Home Court Advantage: The Clippers are strong at home and would hold home court for the series. If these teams meet in the playoffs the Clippers should be able to get off to a fast start and set the tone for the series rather quickly. The excitement in LA over the Clippers is building and the energy in Staples Center for a playoff should be electric.
Health: Both teams are in solid shape health-wise.
Prediction: This one shouldn’t really be all that close. The Clippers are a better team across the board. They have more depth, size and athletic ability. They have several scoring options whereas the Rockets rely heavily on one scorer who shrunk in the playoffs last season versus the Heat. Most importantly the NBA is a superstar league in the playoffs and the Clippers have the best point guard in basketball running the show.
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