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Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Clippers game preview

NBA: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers are the only team in the Western Conference that has not lost to the Houston Rockets.

The Milwaukee Bucks are the only team to hold the distinction league-wide, but the Clippers have a chance to sweep Houston for the season with a win tonight at Staples Center. The Clippers have come down the stretch blazing hot, winners of 13 of their last 15 games. The only two losses came in Utah and in Milwaukee. The Clippers have not lost at home since January, and that was to the Lakers so it was a neutral site game at best. As a reference, Tobias Harris was still on the team at the time.

The Clippers did send away Harris at the deadline, but they brought in rookie Landry Shamet, who’s shooting 42% from deep, in the deal along with Wilson Chandler. Ivica Zubac also made his way to the Clippers in a side deal involving the Lakers.

Shamet scored 18 points against Houston back when he was a Sixer, and Zubac had his way against Houston the last time he met the Rockets. While Harris is the better overall player, the Clippers might come out on top in those deals over the long haul, and that’s not even including the draft compensation from the deal (Philly’s protected first rounder in 2020 and Miami’s unprotected first rounder in 2021).

Danilo Gallinari has really flourished since the trade, averaging 23 points per game and getting to the line a couple extra times per game, where he shoots 91%. He’ll space the floor well for the Clippers but can also put the ball on the floor and make the right pass when necessary.

The Clippers also feature three ex-Rockets that always seem game to take down their former employer. Patrick Beverley continues to be a pest and will always be a beloved figure in Houston. He is still the bundle of energy he was in Houston and a capable defender.

Lou Williams is an absolute killer, and is one of the best 20 players in the NBA and I do not understand how no one seems to fear him like they do other scorers. He is a terrifying prospect, and we’ll see tonight if former Clipper Austin Rivers can corral him.

For years, there were guys in the NBA that I thought only murdered the Rockets. Thaddeus Young was one. Thad Young made the Rockets bend the knee whenever the Rockets played the Sixers. Yet every time I watched Young play other teams, he looked pedestrian and I would forget that he existed. Last year, Montrezl Harrell took up that role. Against Houston, he’s been a world-beater. Every loose ball and rebound ends up in his hands for an easy dunk that only further hypes up him and the Clippers. No one Houston throws at him in the post can stop him and he knows it. Well, at times this season I’ve watched Trez dominate other teams and it makes me feel good to see him doling out punishment to other teams.

To those that say this might be a first round playoff preview, I would say that I want none of it. The Clippers are playing extremely well and the former Rockets have a different gear when they play Houston. I don’t see Houston having an answer for Williams or Harrell, and I think the Clips would absolutely believe that they should win the series. This is a big game because if these teams meet, either the Clippers will have complete confidence after sweeping the Rockets or Houston will get the win and feel like they are the better team.

The Clippers have had two days off. Luckily, the Rockets put the Kings away quickly last night and were able to keep both James Harden and Chris Paul’s minutes under 30. With this being Houston’s last back-to-back and one of the two remaining games against playoff teams, I expect Houston’s starters to play heavy minutes. Now we just have to hope that the NBA doesn’t assign Scott Foster for another Rockets game at Staples Center.

Tip-off is at 9:30pm CT on NBA TV