When and where: November 13, 2019, Toyota Center, Houston, TX, 7:30 PM ET
The stars will be out in full force when the Los Angeles Clippers journey to Texas for a much-anticipated Wednesday night showdown with the Houston Rockets. Even without Paul George on the floor, the Kawhi Leonard-led Clippers are still playing every bit as good as expected. They recently turned back the Portland Trail Blazers and defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors. Meanwhile, the Russell Westbrook and James Harden collaboration is going great in Houston with the team currently being on a four-game win streak. They recently knocked off the New Orleans Pelicans in a 122-116 road victory.
Leonard closes the book on the RaptorsAfter helping lead the Raptors to their first NBA Championship, Leonard stood on the opposite side of them on Monday night in a different uniform. Of course, he’d likely downplay the meeting as any other game, but there were definitely some emotions involved considering he played his worst game of the season—12 points and 0-for-4 shooting from 3-pointer.
He can now look forward to putting the Raptors in the rearview as the Clippers move on to a Western Conference challenge from the Rockets. Even when Leonard wasn’t at his best offensively, he still manages to dominate on the boards and dish out assists to get his teammates involved. His ever-evolving two-way presence has made him arguably the best player in the league. However, he’ll face a Rockets team with two players with a similar presence in Harden and Westbrook—two future Hall of Famers capable of taking over a game at any time.
Houston is currently ranked as the No. 1 scoring offense in basketball, while the Clippers come in just outside of the top-10 in scoring defense. The match-up between Los Angeles’ Patrick Beverley and Westbrook always feels like Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield. Both are fiery players with a long history of scrappy head-to-head meetings. No one gets under Westbrook’s skin like Beverley, and it could give the Clippers an edge.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
The Rockets have continued to struggle on defense, even with the roster changes. So I’d expect Leonard to come out with a vengeance to make up for the Raptors game. The Clippers could be without second-year guard Landry Shamet, who is currently undergoing evaluation to determine the severity of an ankle sprain.
However, the big news of the day is NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski reporting on the possibility of George returning for this game against the Rockets. The perennial NBA All-Star has been sidelined and rehabbing from double shoulder surgery.
Harden continues to make history for the RocketsThere were some that hastily jumped on the bandwagon of claiming Westbrook’s arrival in Houston would ruin Harden’s game. Yet, the bearded basketball daemon is still making history only 10 games into the NBA season.
His 37.3 scoring average through the first 10 games is the best the league has seen in the last 50 years.
“I just go out there and play basketball,” said Harden, via ESPN’s Royce Young. “Try to be assertive as I can. We’re really pissed about losing those three games – that’s what we’re thinking about [with the first 10 games]. I think defensively we’re getting better. We’ve been really good these last few games. And that’s our mindset, just continue to get better. Like, individually, I don’t care. I’ve done a lot of good things, pretty good things individually, so the most important thing is winning and finding ways to get better.”
It’s important to hear Harden mention defense because that’s exactly what the Rockets will need heading into Wednesday’s game against a top-10 offensive team in the Clippers. A lack of quality defense has remained the Achilles Heel for coach Mike D’Antoni’s teams for years. They typically dazzle with prolific offensive statistics only to fall flat on the defensive end of the floor when it really matters.
The team is hotter than fish grease right now with Harden and Westbrook back together. Perhaps the primary hang-up, aside from the defensive issues, is the continued offensive struggles from center Clint Capela. Despite being paid like a superstar, he hasn’t lived up to expectations of being the third piece to take the Rockets over the top. He’ll have his work cut out for him on the boards against a Clippers team ranked as the sixth-best rebounding team in the league.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on Covers.com, are:
- Clippers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games playing on 1 days rest.
- Rockets are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games against teams in the NBA Pacific.