This should be a very fun series all the way around. The Rockets have the runner up in the MVP ballot against a very determined squad led by two superstars; Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Both teams were very close in their regular season production, but the Rockets did it without their 2nd best player in Dwight Howard. Howard is healthy now and has been looking like the prime Dwight Howard that led Orlando to the finals.
Throughout the year the Clippers have been desperately trying to find a way to help their bench deficiencies but to no avail. They had Nate Robinson for a minute who ended up being injured, Glen Davis isn’t the worst thing in the world, and Jamal Crawford’s +/- hasn’t been pretty this year either. Oh, and there’s Austin Rivers who gives every Clipper fan a heart attack when he steps out onto the floor. Depth is key in the playoffs and it’s been awhile since we’ve seen a true contender rely on their starters as heavily as the Clippers do. One injury to that lineup would completely tear them apart. Even if it was Matt Barnes, the +/- takes a significant drop.
On the other side you have the Rockets who basically have been playing like Harden and everyone else up until the playoffs. Dwight Howard has been the best Rocket in the playoffs for 10 of the past 11 (excluding Harden’s 40+pt performance) games now, and I don’t see that disappearing. Despite how many feel about Howard, there is no denying that he turns it on when playoff time comes around. Josh Smith was extremely effective against the Mavs in the last round but he does that every time he faces them so it wasn’t too big of a surprise. If they rely on Harden to be 44% of the offense like he was all regular season, then I doubt they’ll have a chance to win.
PG: J. Terry vs C. Paul
SG: J. Harden vs J. Reddick
SF: T. Ariza vs M. Barnes
PF: T. Jones vs B. Griffin
C: D. Howard vs D. Jordan
Outside scoring has been difficult for the Clippers as of late. That outside shot will be key to opening things up for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to create inside. They need at least 8-12 3-pointers a game to have a chance at winning.
Jamal Crawford needs to be a positive factor for them off the bench. Anytime he shows up it’s usually a win for Los Angeles. If Jamal can have at least 2 or 3 explosive games, then it won’t be good for Houston.
The Rockets have to find someone to guard Chris Paul. Jason Terry will get torched if he’s the best answer. Harden has the skill set but it has completely vanished since coming to Houston, and Ariza just doesn’t seem fast enough. Losing Beverly hurt a lot because they need him especially right now.
If the entire team contributes the way they did against the Mavericks, I don’t know if the Clippers have a chance. The Rockets definitely have more valuable bodies to throw at them while the Clippers will be draining themselves if the Rockets can keep fresh bodies out there.
I have the Clippers beating the Rockets 4-2. It’s crazy every logical thought in my brain says that Houston is the right pick, but seeing Chris Paul willing his team through that game 7 victory has taken me over. Another part of it is that I’m not sure if I trust Harden in the playoffs quite yet. Oh, and don’t worry about missing the games as they’ll probably last all night long with hack-a-Howard, hack-a-Jordan, hack-a-Dorsey, hack-a-Smith, etc…man that’s an exciting rule.