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.