The Los Angeles Clippers (42-19; 33-28 ATS) and Houston Rockets (39-21; 29-30-1 ATS) will wrap up their four-game regular-season series Thursday night at Toyota Center in Houston. The Rockets lead the series 2-1 and have a chance to clinch it for the second time in four years. Houston beat LA 102-93 as a 2.5-point home fave and 122-117 as a 5-point road underdog, while the Rockets lost 122-119 as 5.5-point road dogs. Both teams have been playing very well lately, so we expect to see a great battle on Thursday.
The Clippers are coming in full strength, while the Rockets could miss DeMarre Carroll due to an illness.
What’s at Stake?
The Clippers sit at the second spot of the Western Conference standings, only one game ahead of the third-seeded Nuggets and 5.5 games behind the Lakers. They are 2.5 games ahead of the fourth-seeded Rockets, so there’s a lot on the table for both teams here. If the Rockets win, they will cut the deficit and earn a tiebreaker over the Clippers.
LA is rolling on a five-game winning streak following a 109-94 victory at the Oklahoma City Thunder this past Tuesday. After the clash with the Rockets, the Clippers will meet their city rivals Sunday afternoon. On the other side, the Rockets are coming off a 125-123 defeat at the New York Knicks this past Monday, snapping a six-game win streak. They will head to Charlotte on Saturday.
These two foes will meet for the first time since the trade deadline that brought many changes on both sides. The Clippers added Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson, while the Rockets launched their unique small-ball basketball with P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington as the tallest guys in the rotation. Robert Covington has been terrific since joining the Rockets. He’s been averaging 13.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game in 10 outings as a Rocket.
LA starts Ivica Zubac at center, but Montrezl Harrell (18.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG), who’s 6’7’’, spends most of the time at five. Marcus Morris and JaMychal Green are 6’8’’, so the Clippers won’t have an advantage in the paint as the Knicks had on Monday when they scored 64 points in the paint against the Rockets and posted 20 offensive rebounds.
Both these teams can switch almost everything on the defensive end. The Clippers are fifth in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions (107.2), third in opponent field goal percentage (43.7%), and ninth in opponent 3-point percentage (34.6). The Rockets surrender 109.8 points per 100 possessions (15th in the league) on 46.0% shooting from the field (also 15th) and 34.5% from beyond the arc (5th).
Houston scores 114.3 points per 100 possessions which are the second-most in the NBA. The Rockets take the most 3-point attempts per game (44.6) while shooting 35.1% from deep (19th). On the other side, the Clippers average 113.4 points per 100 possessions (3rd) on 46.5% shooting from the field (10th) and 36.8% from downtown (9th).
We’ll see a great duel between James Harden (34.9 PPG, 7.4 APG) and Kawhi Leonard (27.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG). Harden has been averaging 37.3 points against the Clippers this season, but he’ll need help from Russell Westbrook (27.5 PPG, 7.1 APG) who’s been shooting only 38.4% from the field against the Clippers this term. Over his last eight outings, Russ has been making 56.3% of his field goals while averaging 33.6 points per contest.
I would stay away from the side bet in this one. As I’ve mentioned above, both teams have been playing in a good form recently, while the stake is huge, and that’s a recipe for a tight battle that could easily go either way. If you want to take a risk, betting on any team to win by five or fewer points around +175 odds seem intriguing, but I would stick with the totals.
This is the clash of two teams that can put some serious numbers on the scoreboard. The line is sky-high, but on a solid shooting night, the Clippers and Rockets should easily combine for 238 or more points. Furthermore, both teams love to play at a fast pace, so I’m going with the over on the totals.