HOUSTON ROCKETS (3-0)
at LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (2-1)
Tip-off: Monday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -4.5, Total: 205.5
Dwight Howard travels back to Staples Center on Monday night for the first time since signing with the Rockets, but to play the Clippers, and not his old team.
After an embarrassing loss in their opener against the Lakers, the Clippers have strung together two straight convincing wins, beating Golden State by 11 and winning at Sacramento by nine. They have also put up impressive offensive numbers this season, averaging 113.0 PPG on 49.6% FG. But winning a third straight contest won't be easy against undefeated Houston who has allowed opposing teams to score only 93.7 PPG on 38.7% FG this season. The Rockets have looked like a top team this season, winning their first three games by an average of 10.7 PPG. Last season, the Clippers took two of the three games played between these two teams, but were 1-2 ATS. In the one game in L.A. last season, the Clips won 106-96, but were barely unable to cover the 11-point spread. In the most recent meeting on March 30, the Clippers were out-rebounded 60-42 and managed only 81 points in 17-point drubbing by Houston. Since 1996, the Rockets have gone 42-21 SU (.667) and 36-27 ATS (.571) in the series. Although, in the previous two seasons, the Clippers hold a significant edge going 5-1 SU and 3-3 ATS against the Rockets. L.A. will be looking for its fifth straight home win in this series, winning the past four by an average margin of 11.3 PPG. The Under has dominated this series recently with nine of the past 11 meetings (82%) coming in under the total, making the Under 34-26 (57%) in this series since 1996. Rockets PG Jeremy Lin will once again get the start and majority of minutes at the point with PG Patrick Beverly out 1-to-2 weeks with a rib injury.
Which team will keep its win streak intact on Monday? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Dave has opened the season at 60% ATS on his NBA Best Bets (3-2) correctly picking both the Rockets and Clippers to win and cover in their most recent home games.
The Rockets averaged 106.0 PPG last season (2nd in NBA) and have been right around that mark in the first three games this year (104.3 PPG). On the defensive side of the ball, Houston surrendered 102.5 PPG last season (3rd-worst in league), but the offseason addition of C Dwight Howard really helped the team both in solidifying their rebounding and defense, dropping the team's scoring defense by 8.8 PPG. The big man has also given the Rockets another element to the offense with 15.0 PPG to start the season, averaging an NBA-best 17.0 RPG to go along with 1.7 BPG. The combination of Howard and C Omer Asik (11.7 RPG) has placed the Rockets second in the league in total rebounds (48.3 RPG) and rebounding margin (+8.6 RPG). Howard has done very well against the Clippers over his 19 career games (19.3 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 2.4 BPG) and has shot an amazing 60.2% from the field, but averaged only 8.8 RPG in four games against them last season while with the Lakers. SG James Harden has proven to be a top player in the league and the addition of Howard has pushed his ceiling even higher. So far this season, Harden is averaging 26.0 PPG and has eight steals (2.7 SPG). “The Beard” has performed well below his career 16.3 PPG average when facing the Clippers though, averaging a mere 11.6 PPG on 34.5% FG in his 12 career games against them. Harden did score 23 points in his one game against L.A. last season, but was 8-for-20 from the floor (2-of-9 threes) and committed five turnovers. The Rockets also get much of their offense from players not named Harden or Howard, as PG Jeremy Lin (16.7 PPG, 3.3 APG) and SF Chandler Parsons (14.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG) combined for 44 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists against the Jazz on Saturday night.
The Clippers have bounced back in a big way since their opening night loss against the Lakers, winning their past two games by an average of 10.0 PPG. All of their games have been shootouts to this point, with their offense averaging 113.0 PPG and their defense allowing 110.7 PPG. One constant for L.A. has been superstar PG Chris Paul, who has 10+ assists in all three games (12.0 APG) and scored 68 combined points in the team’s two wins. Paul struggled a bit with his shot in his two games against the Rockets last season with only 14.5 PPG on 43.5% FG, but he still dished out 18 assists and committed only two turnovers. Paul has usually played well versus the Rockets in his career though, averaging 18.9 PPG (46% FG), 9.7 APG and 2.5 SPG in 27 meetings. PF Blake Griffin has also put together two great games in the Clippers wins (21.5 PPG, 13.5 RPG) but his 17.6 PPG against the Rockets in 10 career games is his third-lowest average against any NBA team. C DeAndre Jordan should compete for Defensive Player of the Year this season with his ability to block shots (2.0 BPG) and steal the ball (2.0 SPG). He has also increased his contribution to the offensive in each of his seasons in the NBA and hopes to keep his scoring average in double-digits for the first time in his career (11.3 PPG so far this season). SG J.J. Redick (14.3 PPG on 48.4% FG) joins one of the top scoring options off the bench in the league, SG Jamal Crawford (16.7 PPG, 51.4% FG), to give L.A. a potent three-point duo at all times. The pair has combined to make 14-for-32 shots (44%) from behind the arc this season.