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Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Clippers game preview

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers are chasing the Rockets, and they already have a template on how to catch Houston.

LA gets the benefit of 2 of the 3 matchups being at Staples Center and having more rest in both matchups. Tonight, the Rockets have had one day off and LA has had two. In the final between these teams in the second-to-last game, the Rockets will be on a back-to-back and the Clips won’t.

It’s breaking the Clippers way, and it’s up to Houston to make sure that the April 10 meeting between these teams means absolutely nothing.

However, this next stretch of games is huge for Houston. After tonight, they play Memphis, in San Antonio, Utah, in Chicago, then the Cavs in Houston. The bookends of this stretch will both be on national television, where Houston has had mixed results this season.

Generally, teams play harder on national television because they know there are more eyes on them. But the Rockets wilted on TNT against the Pacers and Atlanta. So much of Houston’s game is predicated on making threes, but it’s a shame to leave the door open for other teams so often in big games. If you want to be a contending team in this league, you need to run away with games and let your opponents know that there is little hope of a comeback.

As for tonight’s opponents, the Clippers are finally healthy after dealing with injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. In fact, Griffin dropped 43 on the Charlotte Hornets the other night. Also, the Rockets are going to be in for another rude awakening against the daunting front line of the Clippers if they continue to ignore paint defense and rebounding.

Finally, the positive thing about playing on ESPN tonight is we can avoid the terribleness that is Ralph Lawler, who is revered around NBA circles for some reason. Just listening to his voice and his catchphrases makes me want to punch something. I’m fine with guys being homers but Lawler grinds my gears. I’m sure to draw the ire of Clippers fans now. Oh well.

Nevertheless, the Rockets are in the hole here. I’ll give them a healthy 10% chance of winning tonight. In Los Angeles against a more rested Clippers squad that knows they need this win? Yeah I’m taking Chris Paul and co.

(Insert old man comment about how NBA games should not start at 9:30pm local time ever.)

Tip-off is at 9:30pm CT on ESPN