The NBA has just 4 games on the schedule for Thursday night, but the contest going down in Texas is clearly the marquee matchup of the night. The Clippers, who are playing arguably their best basketball of the season, will travel to Houston to face the Rockets, who are playing arguably their best basketball of the season. Houston just had a 6-game winning streak snapped on Monday night, while Los Angeles enters the game as winners of 5 consecutive games.
This is the first lengthy stretch of games that the Clippers have enjoyed at full health. Patrick Beverley, Kawhi Leonard, Lou Williams and Paul George have all missed a decent amount time at various points throughout the season due to injury. The Rockets, meanwhile, have been surging ever since making the controversial decision to punt on the center position entirely just before the trade deadline.
This game has already seen plenty of line movement. It began as a pick’em, but I’ve seen Rockets -1 and Clippers -1 at different sportsbooks all morning. MyBookie has the Clippers favored by a point with an over/under of 236.5 points.
Both teams fully healthy
Rockets lead season series vs. Clippers 2 games to 1
Rockets won 102-93 in only previous meeting in Houston
Doc Rivers isn’t lacking options when it comes to his rotations. The Clippers are so deep that they can realistically play about 11 guys that would be featured pieces in rotations for other teams. Obviously, that’s something that comes in handy for the Clippers when they’re facing teams that play different styles, especially come playoff time. The Clips have the ability to blend lineups in order to best combat what their opponents are trying to do.
Because the Rockets no longer play any player taller than about 6’7″, it’s fair to assume that tonight’s game won’t feature much Ivica Zubac, who has been the Clippers’ starting center all year long. .
Frankly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Zubac didn’t start this game, and I’d be shocked if he played more than 10 minutes at the most. The Rockets are designed to play opposing big men off the floor by spacing the court around the 3-point line. 7-footers like Zubac rarely like to patrol outside of the paint.
The Clippers could opt to start Montrezl Harrell at center. If they want to go even smaller, JaMychal Green or Marcus Morris could get a look at the 5. The Clippers are really one of the only teams in the entire league capable of going 5-out the way the Rockets can. We could realistically see an alignment that features Morris, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams/Landry Shamet to start the game.
If Rivers stubbornly decides to start Zubac, that’s a matchup the Rockets will look to exploit as often as they can. Zubac has no real hope of capably defending anyone Houston is going to run out there. I expect Doc to make the proper adjustments, but hopefully he does so early in the game.
The Rockets are one of the few teams with a winning record at the Clippers’ expense so far this season. Houston has taken 2 of the 3 meetings with LA to this point, including a thrilling 122-117 win at the Staples Center when they last met in late-December.
That was right around when Russell Westbrook really took off. Rather than settling for inefficient looks from 3-point range, Westbrook decided to relentlessly attack the rim that night. The Clippers had absolutely no hopes of slowing him down, as he finished with a game-high 40 points on 13-for-31 shooting from the floor. It was a fairly quiet night for James Harden (“only” 28 points), but Russ stole the show.
The Clippers certainly have enough quality defenders on the roster to keep up with the Rockets. George and Leonard are still among the best defenders in the league on the wing, while Patrick Beverley remains arguably the league’s most ferocious individual defender. He and Westbrook have developed something of a rivalry over the years, but Westbrook pretty clearly got the better of Beverley the last time they squared off.
The Clips obviously give the Rockets mismatch issues of their own. Leonard and George are huge for their positions, but the Rockets do have a quality stable of wing defenders in Robert Covington, PJ Tucker and Danuel House. Still, the Clippers will almost surely try to force the Rockets to switch Harden onto one of the star wings in order to gain a matchup that would clearly favor LA.
Clippers at Rockets Pick
Frankly, I don’t have a strong lean either way when it comes to attacking this bet. I think this is one of those situations that makes line shopping important. These teams are so evenly-matched that different NBA betting sites are going to have different opinions on how it will turn out. As I said in the open, you can probably find some sites that have the Rockets as slight favorites, and others that have the Clips slightly favored.
We don’t see either of these teams listed as underdogs very often, which is why I’m inclined to just bet the moneyline on the underdog. The outcome of this game is essentially a coin flip, and there really isn’t much point in taking the minus-money odds that come with either team covering a 1-point spread. Why do that when you can just get plus odds on the ‘dog on the moneyline?
If you like the Clippers, find a site that has the Rockets favored and take a shot at the LA moneyline. If you think the Rockets take care of business at home, find a site that has LAC as a favorite and slap some money down on Houston’s moneyline. The Rockets are at home, so I’m inclined to take that side if I’m forced to pick a side. Shop the lines for this one.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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