Houston Rockets @ LA Clippers: feat. Fred Katz of Clipper Blog

Teams: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Television: ESPN

Notes:  Of the teams James Harden has played at least twice this season, only the OKC Thunder have managed to suppress Harden the way the Clippers have.  Against LA, Harden has averaged 35 mpg, 13.5 ppg on 32 FG% and 8 3pt% (EIGHT PERCENT!!!).

Luckily for the Rockets, JJ Redick will not suit up tonight due to his myriad of injuries.  Redick battered Houston in their first two meetings to the tune of 24 ppg (well above his season avg of 15.7) on 53 FG% and 36 3pt%.

Insider’s View - Q&A with Fred Katz of Clipper Blog.  Follow Fred on Twitter @FredKatz.

MF – I expected (and hoped, for the Rockets’ sake) that the Clippers would struggle without Chris Paul in the lineup, but they were 12-6 without their leader.  Blake Griffin showed a surprising amount of growth during that stretch.  How has his game developed this year to allow him to still flourish without CP3?  

FK – It all started once Griffin began to make his free throws consistently. That really seemed to open up his game. He became more confident going to the hoop. His jump shot opened up the floor, and his 39 percent on a high volume of mid-range jumpers is more than respectable. Griffin used to shy away from going to the line. This year, he’s taking almost three more free throws per 36 minutes than last season. Add in that he’s the only natural power forward in the league who can get a defensive rebound and either go coast-to-coast or lead a fast break and consistently make good decisions, and it’s no wonder why he’s averaged 27.9 points and 3.9 assists over his past 29 games.

I still hold that JJ Redick is the one responsible for all the “James Harden is terrible on defense” noise.  Harden is by no means a stopper, but Redick torched him on national television and put up two of his best scoring nights of the season against Houston earlier this season.  How different is the Clips offense with Redick sidelined?

Amazingly different. And not just in terms of quality, but also in terms of style. There are so many plays that the Clippers can’t run without their starting 2 guard. It’s not just Redick’s shooting that helps the Clipper offense. There’s also the off-ball movement which gets defenses stirring. Chris Paul is the type of point guard who waits to dissect a D. He’s the most patient point guard in the league. The more a defense rotates, the more likely he is to find a mistake and pounce. Redick gets those defenses to move. He opens up the Clipper playbook. With him gone (even though Jamal Crawford has played as well as he possibly could), the Clippers lose that aspect of their game and become much more stagnant.

What do you expect to be the biggest change with the team now that Glen Davis has signed?  And are there any indications as to when he’ll suit up for the Clips?

Davis is expected to suit up Wednesday night against Houston. Finally, the Clippers have a third big man. Look, I’m not delusional. I realize Big Baby is a mid-range heavy player, who has taken more contested 18-footers than good shots over the past couple of seasons. But it’s incredibly likely that was more a product of situation and less a product of personal preference. The Orlando offense has anemic tendencies and Jacque Vaughn seems to be prone to doing anything that might stunt the growth of his younger bigs (see: Jason Maxiell’s early-season playing time). “Large Infant” won’t take those sorts of shots playing with Chris Paul or Griffin if he plays with the starters. Jamal Crawford won’t let him take his shots with the second unit. And even if Davis ends up playing as badly as possible, he’s still an upgrade for the Clippers off the bench.

Has there been any real, tangible growth with DeAndre Jordan, or is he simply just getting more minutes?

Yes. So much. He’s growing faster than Jack’s beanstalk. It used to be just theory, but with the arrival of Doc Rivers, it’s become pretty clear that Vinny Del Negro didn’t do much to help DeAndre Jordan’s game or confidence. Every time Jordan made a mistake last year, he was out of the game at the next whistle. You could tell he was miserable. You could tell he was stunted. It was one of those rare times you could see something not happening. There was no development at all. This year, that’s all different. His rebounds are up from 10.6 per 36 minutes last year to 14.0 per 36 this season. Now, he’s leading the league in boards. He’s rotating better on the defensive end. He’s not as aggressive defending the pick-and-roll, an effect of a new system as much as anything else. He’s probably become one of the six or seven best defensive centers in the NBA. And that is a huge improvement above all else.

What’s been the biggest difference with the team since upgrading from Vinny Del Negro to Doc Rivers?

Um, everything? The offensive sets are more creative (credit Alvin Gentry for that as well). The young players are actually developing. DeAndre Jordan has gotten better. Blake Griffin has gotten better. Last year, you could argue those players regressed. Even Jamal Crawford is having a better year and is playing a little bit of defense…for Jamal Crawford.

True or False:  The Clippers really feel like they have a shot at LeBron this summer?

False. The Clippers are strong enough at the top to win a championship right now. They have a good enough coach. They have a talented enough three or four best players. Where they need improvement is at the margins.

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Total comments: 23
  • Sir Thursday says 3 months ago

    I hate the NBA's scheduling. All of the preferred game slots go to the media darlings, and I understand that; but doesn't it feel like every big game that the Rockets have against the top tier teams (think LAC, SAS, OKC, IND) are at the end of a road trip or the end of a back to back? I know the schedule gets rough at times for everyone, but it gets hard to use the big games as a barometer for the playoffs when all the measuring stick games pit the Rockets at a scheduling disadvantage.

    Yeah, I think this is an illusion. I guarantee you every fanbase in the league thinks they are hard done by by the scheduling gods.


  • redfaithful says 3 months ago

    Last night the scheduling was on the Rockets' side...

  • CT for Three says 3 months ago

    I hate the NBA's scheduling. All of the preferred game slots go to the media darlings, and I understand that; but doesn't it feel like every big game that the Rockets have against the top tier teams (think LAC, SAS, OKC, IND) are at the end of a road trip or the end of a back to back? I know the schedule gets rough at times for everyone, but it gets hard to use the big games as a barometer for the playoffs when all the measuring stick games pit the Rockets at a scheduling disadvantage.

  • bob schmidt says 3 months ago

    If you really look over the stats from this game, we were pretty even with the Clips in every area except turnovers. While the net difference was 8 turnovers, they outscored us by 20 from the TO aspect. Sure, we can pick apart individual players on both sides but even out the turnovers and we should have won the game. It was an ugly game for both sides, but our area to make immediate improvement that results in additional wins is to win the turnover battle.

  • Buckko says 3 months ago Parsons also had the flu.
  • SadLakerFan says 3 months ago

    Rockets were in itgoing into the 4th. Someonethought it was strange when I postedduring the Sac gamethatMcHale should rest Parsons and Harden. He did rest them, but it didn't matter - those guys were running on fumes in the 4th (did they even score?).

    That's why I didn't think you guys should feel too badly about the games against OKC - I could be remembering incorrectly, but I think they were both the second game of a back-to-backwhere Harden/Parsons played monster minutes in theprevious game. Hopefully,they will learn how to play when tired (Parsons needs to figure out thatregression to the mean doesn't apply to jump shots when your legs are gone), and McHale willfigure out howto rest them consistently over the course of the season and still get the W's.

  • Buckko says 3 months ago Paul had a injured thumb so we can't say how "much" Beverley contained him.
  • thenit says 3 months ago

    I like that Harden showed some emotions getting into Paul and Jordan. Its a good sign for the playoffs.

    There were few negatives in the game and most starters were double digit negative in the plus minus that was the biggest difference, all our bench players did OK and held their own. Harden's D has improved during the winning streak but I felt like he couldn't keep up with Collison due to fatigue in the 2nd half. Bev did alright and contained Paul, but Paul still showed text book examples on how to use screens to get rid of the pest.

  • ale11 says 3 months ago

    I'm glad Big O came back....his demeanor seems to be right on track now, and deep down, he knows that if he plays like he used to last year, he'll force McHale's hand and he'll get more minutes, even with Howard. He even nailed a short range jumper, lol. I don't think D-Mo did it that bad yesterday either, Griffin just seems like he is making the leap to elite status, and yesterday Jordan looked like a top-three rim protector....

    Let's not get too carried about Beverley playing "good D" against Paul last night. Don't forget he has been out with a shoulder injury, he wasn't 100%.

    Too bad we didn't beat a Redick-less (and Crawford-less at the end) Clippers....we don't seem to match up well with them :S

  • feelingsupersonic says 3 months ago I always thought it would return in certain stretches against certain teams. It's a great option to go to to disrupt specific matchups.
  • junglejim says 3 months ago

    Yeah, and how about the Asik/Howard shared court time? We didn't think that would ever happen again, but it seems to help against a team with a big PF. Yay Asik.

  • Chichos says 3 months ago

    And Asik looked like he really frustrated Griffin at times. If we meet the Clippers in the playoffs I expect 5-10 minutes a game of that matchup and it could prove to be crucial.

    So glad we held onto Omer.

  • feelingsupersonic says 3 months ago I agree johnnygold, there are a lot of the positives within the negatives.
  • thejohnnygold says 3 months ago

    Wow, Blake Griffin has really developed his game. A while back, when I said I wouldn't swap any PF not named Anthony Davis for T-Jones--that was wrong. Blake Griffin has turned into quite the player and looks to still have room for improvement in his shooting stroke.

    As for the game. Jordan had the lane shut down. We rushed our threes. The legs looked tired. We still made it close until the end. That was the weird thing. As I watched the game I felt like the Clips thoroughly outplayed us, but every time I looked at the score it was close, or we were ahead. That's the best thing I took from this game. We looked like garbage and still hung in there.

  • John P says 3 months ago

    I saw almost all of the game and I have to say, it seemed to me that the only players who really contributed on offense were Howard, Harden and Hamilton. Asik did his bit during his time on the court, mostly on the D/rebounding end, but the rest of the team seemed irrelevant.

    I guess the bench did supply some points in limited minutes but just watching the game you saw Jones, Lin, Dmo, etc... just miss things, turn over things, etc... unless we have other threats that can take players away from double teaming H and H then we aren't going anywhere.

    I know it is just one game at the end of a back to back and road trip and a team that is red hot too but it really seemed like no one but Howard and Hamilton really showed up to play.

    Congrats to Morey for getting a good guy in Hamilton, but as a spot up shooter he did his job but could the O have been better if Brooks was creating chaos driving into the lane, making people respect his 3 point shot, etc...?

    Beverley also had a good D night as well on Paul. Forgot to mention that, but he didn't do anything on O.

    Sad night for the good guys....they played them to a draw most of the game until the ugly fourth.

  • Chichos says 3 months ago

    Both team's starters underwhelmed. Darren Collison was the difference and I would rather let Darren Collsion try to beat me over a seven game series then Paul and Griffin. The Rockets were a step slow for stretches and it cost them.

  • Bigtkirk says 3 months ago

    Rockets PG's line - 11 pts on 10 shots, 6 TO's and 5 assists. Ugh.

    After a decent game against Sacramento, Jones had another mediocre game. I hope he comes out of this lull. The Rockets need better production from him.

  • rm90025 says 3 months ago

    Clippers are a really good team that might just be evolving into an elite team. The interior defense was impressive. The Rockets are one of the best teams at scoring layups and getting to the FT line and Clips really made it tough for them inside the paint. Big Baby really helps shore up the weak side of the paint. They won a game with Chris Paul not shooting well and with Crawford getting hurt. Impressive.

  • Red94 says 3 months ago New post: Los Angeles Clippers 101, Houston Rockets 93 - Weary wanderers wilt in the wake of a wild win
    By: Forrest Walker

    The Rockets lost a game they badly needed to win for playoff seeding in Los Angeles, dropping one to a surging Clippers team that capitalized on Houston's many mistakes. With third place in the west on the line, the Rockets were unable to hold on as the Clippers eventually ground them down. The Rockets chipped in by throwing 20 turnovers to the Clippers, a gift Los Angeles accepted with great gusto. Little went right for the road team this night, little was expected to. The Rockets were finishing up a road trip tour of every team in the Pacific Division.

    The question Rockets and Clippers fans will be asking the most is how much better the Clippers are than the Rockets. Given Houston's recent hot streak, it seemed impossible for any team to stand up to them on even footing. One problem however, was that the footing was anything but even. The Rockets were on the fifth of five games away from home and found themselves on the  wrong  end of a back-to-back. Given their recent wins, one might thing the Clippers are the best team in the Western Conference. And you might be right about that.

    The good news is that the bench was superb and Jordan Hamilton continues to look immediately useful. He hit 50% of his buckets, scored 16 points and pulled out 2 blocks.  As ever, general manager Daryl Morey seems to have a knack for identifying underused talent, and so far the trade seems like a winner. Hamilton can shoot the three well enough, he brings some defense and rebounding, and he can cut to the basket when needed. His size and speed alone are great pickups for Houston at the low cost of a point guard glued to the bench.

    Dwight Howard also had some good news, scoring 23 points on 9-12 shooting and pulling down  11 boards.  He got off to a slow start but eventually was the best player on his team. He was critical, and so was his absence at times due to foul trouble could have been disastrous. Instead, Ömer Aşık stepped up and led the second unit to a roaring comeback after a dismal 17-4 start. Aşık only shot 3-4 and had a mere 5 rebounds, but his shot-altering presence was his biggest gift. Players thought twice about driving the lane, and that allowed the bench to fight back.

    Unfortunately, the starters didn't fare so well. The bad news is that at 6-16 for the night (18 points), James Harden was the next best player. It was a rough night for every player, but Harden managed to at least tack on a few points. The other team, however, featured an explosive Blake Griffin who not only shot 11-25 but also looked like a post aficionado and a fast break master. Chris Paul's absence has tempered Griffin and now he's a deadly weapon.

    Losing to a rival and dropping two places in the standings is a painful proposition for this Rockets team, but the season is far from over. With games against The Miami Heat and the Portland Trail Blazers approaching, The Rockets will have chances to get back on track. And unlike the beginning of the year, the track is just a few steps away. The playoffs are comings up and the Rockets are rounding into shape bit by bit. The only use this loss has is to serve as fuel for future wins.

  • Dayak says 3 months ago We will win this game because Reddick the GOAT isn't play :p
  • thejohnnygold says 3 months ago

    According to The Big Book on Offensive and Defensive Ratings, DeAndre Jordan is an elite performer this season on both offense and defense.

  • SadLakerFan says 3 months ago As a Laker fan, the last time I attended a Clips game, Lamar Odom was taking guys off the dribble and Q and D Miles were flying all over the place. But, if it weren't for the fact that I am not in LA today, I would be at Staples Center tonight. The Clippers are true contenders and the Rockets are hitting their stride and should be well rested with a 1 hour flight following the scrimmage against the Kings. It's going to be a great game. Damn.
  • Buckko says 3 months ago

    Jordan is a great rebounder and shot blocker but he's still a really bad defender statistically.