It's hard not to look past the 76ers. The Clippers matchup looms large for Houston this weekend, but if you lose to the Sixers, will a win over the Clippers do enough to overcome the loss to a team that's on a 25-game losing streak coming in tonight.
At this point, no team wants to be the team that Philly snaps their streak against. There's pride at stake. So I think the Rockets will be in the game enough to pull out the win. Since the Rockets have Friday off, McHale won't mind playing his starters 35+ minutes. Obviously, he'd rather not do that. But if he has to, he'll do it.
Meanwhile, I predict Philly to come out hot and working hard. They don't want to be a part of history. Tonight would tie them for the longest losing streak ever. So I expect them to come out and try to put a stop to the slide.
For the Rockets, the story shouldn't even be about Philly's streak, but about revenge for the loss earlier this season. It was an embarrassing loss for Houston, even if the Sixers were playing much better basketball at the time.
Tip off is at 7:00pm CST.
Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Michael Carter-Williams
I didn't see MCW coming. I thought he wasn't that good coming out of Syracuse, but his early season play proved that he belongs. Discard everything from the streak. He's surrounding by no other real players (besides Thad), so it's unfair to judge him. Hopefully this season makes him humble and more mature rather than breaking his spirit. Not that he has a problem with maturity or modesty, but I think you get my point.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. James Anderson
I am so tempted to pick Anderson since he lit up the Rockets in Philly. He scored 150 points on 20-20 three-point shooting (as always, all stats approximate; actually he scored 36 on 75% shooting).
But James Harden is playing the best basketball of his life right now, and it started before Houston started this 5-game stretch against subpar competition.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Hollis Thompson
Trivia time: what college did Hollis Thompson attend?
The answer is at the end of the preview, but I know most of you will cheat and look it up online then claim you knew the answer the whole time.
Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Thaddeus Young
I think Terrence Jones would be similar to Thaddeus Young if he played on a team like Philly. Both a lefties with some range and athleticism to spare.
Thad's game is obviously more rounded from experience, and he always kills the Rockets. So he gets the edge here.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Henry Sims
Dwight knocked knees with someone in practice, so he only participated in 5% of the session, according to a couple of reports.
Look for McHale to maybe take it easy and sit Howard tonight. But even if Asik starts, the Rockets have the advantage here.
Prediction: Rockets take their time, pull away in the third for 112-85 win.
Thompson attended Georgetown.