Game 71 Preview: Clippers at Rockets

Tonight's game will be the fourth game in five days for the Rockets. Compound that with two straight bad losses and a hopeless feeling about the playoffs and you've got a trap game waiting to happen. Of course, any game against the Clippers is a trap game, and any Rockets game at this point is a trap game. Awesome.

The Clippers stand at 26-45 and definitely out of the playoff picture. Donald Sterling is a horrible owner, and I hate to talk about Bill Simmons again, but he was right from the beginning out Mike Dunleavy being a horrible coach and GM. He is neither now. Kim Hughes has taken over as coach, and I wonder whether he'll still be with the team next year.

The Clippers have been decimated by injuries and bad moves in the past. They overpaid Baron Davis, Elton Brand bolted, they kept Dunleavy on too long, Blake Griffin pulled a Greg Oden (who had pulled a Sam Bowie), and traded their one solid contributor on defense, Marcus Camby, for Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw. I like Blake and Outlaw, but the Clips gave up too much for them. Thought the $3 million Portland chipped in didn't hurt.

I enjoy talking about the Clippers. It helps me cope with how the season is going for the Rockets.

Matchups:

PG: Aaron Brooks vs. Baron Davis:

Another big point guard. Apparently they just grow on trees now. Aaron played poorly against Russell Westbrook, and if I wasn't so lazy I would look up his stats against the bigger point guards in the NBA. I'm sure they would look pretty bad. We've talked a lot about how the Rockets are smaller than most teams and that it hasn't really hindered them overall. Well, with Aaron there really does seem to be a serious correlation. On the other hand, Lowry is a great complement to Aaron because he can play with size despite also being around 6-0. I did like Aaron's 7-2 assist-to-turnover ratio against the Thunder.

Davis, besides having pubic hair on his face, averages 15/8/4. I will always remember him for being lazy on the court and doing Dallas dirty in 2007 when he was with the Warriors. What a great series.

Advantage: Clippers, because cash size rules everything around ABZ

SG: Kevin Martin vs. Eric Gordon:

My first memory of Eric Gordon was this high school game against Michael Jordan's sons on ESPN. He scored 43 points on 17-25 shooting and went on a ridiculous personal 10-0 run to finish the first half. Dude was sick. He also played well at Indiana, but the whole Kevin Sampson illegal recruiting thing tarnished his time there.

Now, he gets 17/3/3 and shoots the ball well from everywhere. He's fallen in love with the three-ball, but when you go 2-5 from downtown pretty regularly, you get a green light.

Kevin has not been the same since he started wearing that shoulder pad for the New York game. Indeed, against the Thunder he did disappear. For real. I know he's injured, so he gets a pass for fighting through it.

Advantage: Rockets

SF: Trevor Ariza vs. Rasual Butler:

I don't know much about Butler. This is his eighth NBA season and he's averaging 12/3. Nothing crazy.

Fact: the Clippers acquired Butler by trading a conditional 2016 second round draft pick. 2016? That's like 6 years away! No wonder this team sucks.

Has anyone else noticed that Trevor has been playing a lot better recently? He's more aggressive on offense and it shows. I like it, Trevor. Keep it up.

Advantage: Rockets

PF: Luis Scola vs. Drew Gooden:

I used to call Gooden the most underrated player in the NBA. Now I think that's Luis. Seriously.

Gooden's had a great season, thanks in part to being healthy for most of the season. Since getting traded to the Clippers, he's averaging 15/10. He's got a decent jump shot and can take Scola away from the basket.

Scola is like Rudy. I wish all the Rockets had his heart. I would want 14 more of him (in different shapes and sizes) on my roster. I bet the women wouldn't be too upset. Imagine the choreographed dance moves.

Advantage: Rockets

C: Chuck Hayes vs. Chris Kaman:

Chris Kaman dominated the Rockets the last time they played, putting up 29/7/3/2. Usually he plays poorly against the Rockets, but this year he doesn't have to guard/be guarded by that really tall Chinese guy the Rockets usually have. Yao's absence also allowed Kaman to make the all-star game. He's averaging 19/9, which isn't bad at all.

Advantage: Clippers

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Bench:

Clippers: DeAndre Jordan, Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw, Craig Smith, and for Tom's sake, Steve Novak

Rockets: Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey, Garrett Temple, Will Conroy, Brian Cook, Shane Battier, Jared Jeffries, Jordan Hill, David Andersen, Kyle Lowry, Jermaine Taylor, Chase Budinger, Mike Harris, and Hilton Armstrong. So that's a guy with a serious limp, two rookies, one guy who is pretty much a rookie, and Mike Harris.

Is anyone else cringing? I feel like I'm about to get seriously injured any second now.

Advantage: Clippers, because of Novak (not to mention the healthy people)

Injuries:

Clippers: Griffin (kneecap stress fracture)

Rockets: Battier (knee), Jeffries (Achilles), Hill, Andersen?

Prediction: Rockets pull one out in front of the home crowd, win by 4.

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