The Houston Rockets have turned a busy offseason into a successful regular season thus far. Holding the eighth spot in the Western Conference with a 29-25 record, the Rockets have been one of the more surprising teams in the NBA.
On the other side of the court are the Los Angeles Clippers, who too, have been one of the better storylines in the NBA midway through the season. Headlined by their 17-game winning streak, the Clippers have been at the top of the Western Conference for much of the year, currently sitting in third place.
Injuries have slowed down the Clippers of late, as Chris Paul has missed some time with a knee injury. The Rockets are surging though, having won seven out of their past ten on the back of James Harden.
With their high-flying offense the Rockets can score with anyone and are looking to pull another upset tonight in Lob City.
Here's why they can do it.
High Octane Offense
According to HoopData the Rockets play at the fastest pace in the game averaging a league leading 98.9 possessions per 48 minutes. The league average is 94.3, therefore the Rockets are averaging over four more possessions a game than most teams.
More possessions translate to more points, which is exactly what has happened in Houston. The Rockets are averaging 106.3 points per game this year, also good for first in the league.
The Clippers can score, but generally play at a slower pace averaging only 94.2 possessions per 48 minutes. What the Clippers have done this year is play defense. The Clips are fourth in the league in points per game and are sixth in defensive efficiency, as per HoopData.
Los Angeles has the better chance of succeeding over a seven game series, but with their offense, the Rockets can beat anyone on a given night.
The Clippers are young, but the Rockets are much younger.
The oldest player on their roster is 30 years old, Carlos Delfino, and their next two oldest are 26, Omer Asik and Toney Douglas.
Houston is able to play at such a fast pace because they have such a young roster with fresh legs. The core of their team is under 25 with their top four leading scorers being either 23 or 24.
Their youth is also part of the reasons the Rockets have stayed healthy all year. No regular has missed an extended amount of time for Houston, compared to older teams in the league such as the Lakers, or even the Clippers (Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill).
The Rockets are on the tail end of a back-to-back tonight, but it shouldn't affect them as much as some other teams because they are so young.
Remember the last time the superstar of Jeremy Lin's team went down with an injury and Lin had to handle the scoring burden?
With news that James Harden will not play in tonight's game because of an ankle injury, the Rockets will be without their leading scorer. Houston will need someone to pick up the slack, and there is no better candidate than Jeremy Lin.
Lin has been decent during his first year in Houston, averaging 12.6 points per game and 6.1 assists but has only played to a 14.9 PER, according to John Hollinger. That would put him right at the league average, not what Houston expected when they signed him in the offseason.
Lin now has a chance to shine with Harden missing tonight's game and will be one of the reasons Houston pulls the upset.