On Thursday night, we get to watch a potential preview of the Western Conference Finals when the LA Clippers head to Houston to face the Rockets. Both teams possess some of the best offenses in the league, which means big plays, big scores and big implications.
The Houston Rockets are coming off a 125-123 loss to the New York Knicks after RJ Barrett tied his season-high with 27 points. To be fair to the Rockets though, they were on a six-game win streak before Monday night’s loss.
The LA Clippers are on a five-game win streak as they head into Houston, currently sitting in second place in the Western Conference. If they’re able to get a big win over Houston, it will further solidify their place over the Denver Nuggets.
The Houston Rockets come in as close one-point favorites, with seeding implications on the line, can the Rockets cover? Or will the Clippers be able to steal one on the road? Let’s evaluate both teams and make our decision.
Kawhi and Clippers ready for Rockets
The Clippers are one of the most efficient and consistent teams in the NBA. Possessing the league’s sixth-best offense and the 13th-best defense. Los Angeles is coming off five straight wins against some real contenders. Most recently, the sixth-seed Oklahoma City Thunder, the Clippers were able to top the Thunder 109-94.
The Clippers’ consistency is their crowning achievement, game after game, even while resting Kawhi, the Clippers play at a high level. This Thursday, though, they face a much tougher offense than they’ve faced in their last five games.
The Clippers have had trouble dealing with the Rockets, going 1-2 in their last three games. Although those games were months ago, it’s still a good indication that the Clippers have trouble containing James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Good news for the Clippers is that they come in at full strength, it also looks like Kawhi Leonard won’t be sitting out this game either. Which is great news for the spread.
Los Angeles is a fairly good team against the spread, with an overall record of 33-28. They also have a .500 ATS record on the road, which is good to know, especially in close games like this one. A trend to keep in mind between these two, though, is that Houston is 3-0 ATS this season against the Clippers.
Rockets inconsistencies coming back to bite them
The Houston Rockets are a team that, on its surface, looks like it could run the Western Conference. However, when you pull back the layers, you see a team riddled with inconsistency. Sure, they have a great offense, with Harden and Westbrook, how could you not? But even with those two superstars, they still have trouble with teams like the New York Knicks.
Reliability is what concerns me about the Rockets; you never know which team you’re going to get from night to night.
One night you might get the Rockets that blew out the Memphis Grizzlies 140-112, the next, you could get the Rockets that got throttled by the Phoenix Suns 127-91. Although the Rockets have done great against the Clippers this year, containing the Clippers while they’re hot is no easy feat.
It’ll also be a much easier trip for the Clippers, considering they’ll head straight from Oklahoma to Houston, which is only an hour-and-a-half flight, whereas Houston has to fly back home from New York, a much longer flight with only a day of rest in-between.
Against the spread, the Rockets overall are under .500, not surprising considering how inconsistent they are. They’ve got a spotless ATS record against the Clippers this season, which brings some confidence, but can they be trusted?
Pick and Prediction
Although Houston has the offensive output to match the Clippers point for point, their inconsistent tendencies cause me to lean away from them. What I will say is that in five of their last six games against the Clippers, the total has gone over.
The Clippers are not only the better team; they’re the more consistent team. Game to game the Clippers have shown that they remain as one of the elite teams in the league. Even with an 0-3 ATS record against Houston, it’s a much safer bet to pick the Clippers because you know what you’re going to get. I’ll take the safer pick in this one, LA Clippers +1 and the over.