The Houston Rockets beat the LA Clippers last week, 102-93 in Houston, and now they will head to Los Angeles for the rematch Friday night. It’ll be a new look than they saw just a week prior, as Paul George has returned from injury and played his first four games as a Clipper.
While both teams have similar MOs on defense, the Clippers, especially with George, are the superior defensive team. The combination of James Harden and Russell Westbrook has already proven lethal, and Houston is the better offensive team. With George involved, this will be a great early-season battle. The Clippers are favored by 4.5 points, with the over/under set at 226.5.
Scoring At An Insane Pace
The Rockets are led by James Harden, who is off to an incredible start, averaging 38.4 points and 7.5 assists per game. His blistering scoring pace leads the league with ease. Add Russell Westbrook’s 21.9 points and 6.9 assists per game, and you’ve got the best 1-2 guard punch in the league. The two also combine for 3.3 steals per game.
The walking double-double, Clint Capela, is putting up 13.9 points and 13.7 rebounds per game to go along with some fantastic defense in the paint. Capela is averaging 2.2 blocks and one steal per game. Swingman Danuel House is off to the best start of his career, averaging 11.2 points per game while shooting over 44 percent from beyond the arc.
Kawhi and Paul
With the 1-2 punch of Kawhi Leonard and George, the Clippers have won three of their last four games, including a fourth-quarter comeback that led to an overtime victory over the Celtics Wednesday night. The return of George cannot be underestimated for this team, as George was a top-three MVP candidate last season before his injury. Since his return, he is averaging 28.4 points, 4.8 assists, and 6.3 rebounds to go with his immaculate defense. Since he’s been in the lineup, the Clippers are averaging over 118 points per game while only giving up 106.3.
While George was out, the Clippers were anchored by Leonard and Patrick Beverley, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Although Westbrook recently called Beverley’s defense fake, saying he moves around a lot but nothing happens, the stats prove otherwise. Leonard and Beverley have combined for just under four steals per game this season.
Battle For Western Supremacy
While it’s early in the season, these Rockets-Clippers matchups could not only be very telling for the playoffs but may turn out to have playoff implications later in the season. The Clippers are 5-3 ATS when they’re home favorite this season, while the Rockets are 1-1 as road underdogs. The Clippers are 8-7 overall ATS this season, while the Rockets are 7-8. I look for the addition of George to be too much defensively for the Rockets to overcome, as the Clippers win and cover the spread Friday night.