Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers: 5 things to watch
LOS ANGELES — If the Rockets weren’t yet convinced that things could go from bad to worse, two nights in Sacramento will likely erase any doubts.
It wasn’t just the fact that the Rockets lost both games to the Kings, sending their losing streak to nine games and giving up more points in each game than they’ve allowed in any game this season as they return to a Clippers-Lakers. -On Sunday and Monday they were waiting to know how many players they have lost as well.
Malik Monk’s foul on Wednesday that caused Jae’Sean Tate to lay up on Kevin Porter Jr. increased on Saturday to a flagrant foul, penalty. That didn’t change anything for the Rockets, including the condition of Porter’s bruised left leg. He left Wednesday’s game with an injury, sat out Friday’s loss and will miss Sunday.
That wasn’t the decision from the league office the Rockets expected to hear as they gathered for practice in Los Angeles. After a fourth-quarter brawl on Friday that resulted in Garrison Mathews and Tari Eason being ejected, Rockets players Jalen Green and Tate appeared to walk off the bench, putting them at risk of receiving one-game suspensions .
After cleaning out their bench in reasonable fashion in the final minutes of four of their last five losses, the Rockets may need to get a head start on the process before the nightly calls for Boban Marjanovic begin, if only to create a makeshift. initial lineup.
The Clippers have their problems. Their loss to the Nuggets on Friday, featuring Denver star Nikola Jokic, was the Clippers’ eighth loss in nine games. Paul George and Luke Kennard were out for the Clippers. The Rockets, having lost 14 of 15 games and the last six against the Clippers, have enough problems of their own to get much sympathy.
1. Hope for protection?
The Rockets will go from a pair of games against the NBA’s top scoring team to facing a team ranked 29th in scoring, 28th in offensive rating.
That could help, but the Rockets need to defend much better than they have recently. But the Rockets rank last in the NBA in defense in their losing streak (second to last in offense). The Clippers don’t run much, averaging 12.5 fast break points and 15.9 rebounds, so they generally don’t exploit the Rockets’ biggest defensive deficiencies. But they shot well from three-point range, making 36.8 percent.
Rockets opponents have made 36.7 percent of their 3s this season. But the Rockets held the Clippers in check in the first three meetings, allowing just 9.3 three-pointers on 29.2 percent shooting.
The Clippers go one-on-one the sixth most often in the NBA, but the Rockets defend it relatively well, ranking 19th in iso defense.
The Clippers averaged 108.7 points per game against the Rockets this season, enough to sweep each of the first three meetings, but a far cry from the Kings’ 137 average to start the trip.
When: 14:00 Sunday
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles
TV: AT&T SportsNet Southwest
Radio: 790 AM
See more Collapse 2. Feel at home?
Forward KJ Martin, who has become a starter for the Rockets, goes from back-to-back games where he won a high school state championship to his hometown, where his father played for the Clippers.
He had his best game of the season against the Clippers in Los Angeles in October, scoring 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He scored his second-most points of the season on Wednesday, scoring 21 points in Sacramento on 9-of-13 shooting.
The challenge has been putting games together with that kind of production.
In the rematch against the Clippers two nights later, he made just two shots, scoring two points. In the rematch against the Kings on Friday, Martin went 1 of 6, scoring six points. Martin has scored 15 points or more nine times this season. He scored in double figures in the next game twice.
With the Rockets shorthanded, they may need another one of his best scoring performances, and they may worry about following it up with another on Monday.
3. Turn in and back out
George has powered the Rockets this season, averaging 28.3 points on 50 percent shooting along with seven rebounds, six assists and three steals per game. His last-minute 3-point jumper on the baseline lifted the Clippers to a Halloween night win against the Rockets. But George has been out with a hamstring injury.
Enter Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers’ other star hasn’t played against the Rockets this season, but in the last three games, he’s averaging 28.7 points on 49.1 percent shooting. Leonard’s scoring is down, averaging 18.5 points per game, and he hasn’t regained his 3-point shooting touch, making 28.9 percent of his 3s.
4. Ornate passage
With the Rockets shorthanded in the backcourt, a good portion of the offense will likely come from center Alperen Sengun.
Sengun has had at least five assists in four of his last six games, and in seven of his last 11, including a career-high 10 assists in Sacramento on Wednesday. The seven he collected Friday matched his second.
Sengun, Porter and Green average the same number of touches up front, but Sengun has gone from his average of 34 per game this season to 41.5 in the last two games with Porter only available for the first 10 minutes on Wednesday.
Sengun has been productive against the Clippers, averaging 18.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in three games this season.
While the Rockets will be without their starting point guard, Porter, the Clippers have tried to find answers at the point, moving Terance Mann into the position and into the starting lineup with Reggie Jackson, the previous starter, out of the rotation, and John Wall still coming from the bench.
The Rockets are similarly without a point guard, using Eric Gordon at the position and having Tate handle the ball off the bench.
Gordon becomes more important than ever, and his game has improved recently, but he has not played well against his first team.
In his last seven games since he said the Rockets haven’t improved, Gordon is averaging 13.6 points on 50 percent shooting. He averaged 6.8 points on 26.2 percent shooting over his previous five games.
He averaged 5.3 points on 31.6 percent shooting in three games against the Clippers this season, 14.6 points on 39 percent in his career.