Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Clippers – January 4, 2012 9:30PM

The gist: After keeping in stride with the Lakers for 3 ½ quarters before falling short, the Rockets visit Staples Center again. This time, they take on a Clippers squad that are coming off a 93-88 home win against the Blazers and also have fresher legs thanks to a two-day layoff.

Key matchup: Kyle Lowry vs Chris Paul/Chauncey Billups

Lowry has been an absolute force for the Rockets on offense, piling up the box score and making fantasy league owners salivate over his numbers. If he wants to prove that he deserves to be raised to an All-Star pedestal, he must show that he can take on two of the best pure point guards in the league. Expect the heftier Billups to body up Lowry on one end while Lowry chases Paul through the passing lanes on the other.

X-factor: Chase Budinger

He epitomized the Rockets’ performance last night, waxing hot from outside through the first 36 minutes of action before sputtering with airballs in crunch time. He will have to stay alert and get to the hoop more often rather than settling for contested threes to make a game-changing effect. If he sags off Caron Butler on defensive rotations, he will pay.

Code Red: The Clippers, for all the hype, highlight reels, and charismatic come-on to the crowd, have proven to be a great passing team, with everyone one their starting lineup not named DeAndre Jordan racking up more than two assists an outing. One way the Rockets can expose the Clippers is through the boards. Despite having massive length in the frontcourt in Blake Griffin and Jordan, the team is only averaging 35.5 rebounds, 29th in the league.

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Liking the Rockets would be easier if you didn’t care.

Photo via askal bosch on Flickr

Despite Michael’s understandably dour take on things, Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers had to bring smiles to Rockets fans, at least for three quarters. Regardless of the not-so-sudden realization that the Rockets, along with almost every NBA team, have no answer for a skilled 7-footer with length and strength to spare or that fella named Kobe Bryant, Houston embroiled itself in a very even-footed struggle with a team still capable of dismembering squads that have no business sharing a court with it. Some of the Lakers’ greatest weaknesses remain some of Houston’s best attributes: dominant point guard, depth, perimeter shooting; that might give any viewer pause that wants to credit the Rockets too much for their ability to hang with the former champs, but that’s not what those unadorned in Rocket red got out of this. They just got to watch one helluva game. Read More »

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Rapid Reaction: Houston Rockets 99, Los Angeles Lakers 108

Houston Rockets99Final
Recap | Box Score
108Los Angeles Lakers
Luis Scola, PF 10-18 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | -3

Another solid outing by Scola went for naught. He was crafty and fearless going against L.A.’s giants by himself, but, understandably, came up short.

Jordan Hill, C 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | 0

The definition of dominated; Jordan Hill was overmatched in every possible way in tonight’s game. He finished with 4 rebounds to Andrew Bynum’s 22.

Kevin Martin, SG 5-17 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 12 PTS | -10

Awful shooting performance from Kevin Martin. In a back and forth contest through 3.5 quarters, if a few of Martin’s missed threes went in, the outcome could’ve been a little more interesting. Instead we’re left to wonder as seven of eight deep balls didn’t come close.

Kyle Lowry, PG 8-19 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 9 AST | 22 PTS | -7

Another stupefying performance from Kyle Lowry. The Western Conference’s best point guard (at the moment) barely missed on a triple double for what feels like the fourth time already this season. He was magnificent in his decision making and finished with one more rebound than his team’s two centers.

Patrick Patterson, PF 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -12

Patterson seems to still be recovering from an ankle injury, but if he’s that hurt he shouldn’t be playing at all. His offensive repertoire right now is popping off screens and missing wide open jumpers. For him to grab 1 rebound in a game where we needed all Houston’s front court players to crash the boards is pathetic.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Despite the scoreboard saying it was a back and forth battle, the Lakers were clearly the better basketball team throughout four quarters. Their dominance in the paint was obvious from the start, and in a game where Kobe Bryant scored 37 points, the Lakers clear star was Andrew Bynum.
  2. Kevin McHale experimented with some interesting lineups, going small when the Lakers had both Bynum and Gasol out on the floor by keeping both Jordan Hill and Sam Dalembert on the bench. It worked for small stretches, but ended like fool’s gold.
  3. Not a whole lot of positive to say about Houston’s performance. They were obliterated on the inside, conceded wide open jumpers in an effort to pack the paint, and played like a team with a considerable front court weaknesses should. The problems down low forced them to guard Kobe one on one, and he made his shots.
  4. Chase Budinger was his usual sneaky self, finishing with a solid stat sheet game. Really fun watching him play within himself, but when he reaches outside his limitations things get ugly in a hurry.
  5. The Rockets didn’t get to the free-throw line (attempting 7 to the Lakers’ 27) and settled on the perimeter all night. They launched 31 three-pointers to L.A.’s 14. Both stats reek of desperation.

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Talk of the Moment: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers (Twitter chat tonight)

Tuesday, 9:30PM CST @ Staples Center

Thread for in-game discussion.

 

We are going to try something new tonight for this huge matchup: a Twitter chat.  Just add the hashtag #Red94 to your Tweets during the game, and the entire community will be able to see them, when searched.

I’ve never run one of these before, so if anyone has any tips or recommendations, let me know.  We’re looking forward to seeing how this goes.

EDIT: It got too confusing.  Scrap the Twitter chat for now.  Just join us in the comments.

 

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Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers – January 3, 2012 9:30PM

The gist: With two days to catch their breath, the Rockets go to Hollywood and take on a Lakers squad gasping for air after a 99-90 loss to the Nuggets. Kobe Bryant is looking forward to shrugging off a forgettable night where he went 6/28 (21.4%).

Key matchup: Luis Scola vs Pau Gasol

The “other” cogs of the failed Chris Paul trade will go out to one-up each other. While their offense is at par from previous seasons, both players have yet to fully assert themselves on the boards, Scola grabbing a shade below six rebounds a game (5.8) and Gasol less than his usual double-digit norms (8.7).

X-factor: Kyle Lowry

Coming off 18 assists and that sensational block on Jannero Pargo, Lowry, like Bryant, is trying to put a bad shooting game behind him. Fronted by Derek Fisher and Steve Blake, Lowry should outperform both playmakers but to do so, he must not give up the ball too much. He went for a combined 10 turnovers in the past two games.

Code Red: Andrew Bynum has been a beast on the glass, grabbing an average of 14.5 rebounds in his two games since his reinstatement. If Jordan Hill and Samuel Dalembert do not plant their feet and establish position, they will be in for a long night giving the Lakers more possessions and second chance points.

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