Definitive Guide to LA Clippers vs Houston Rockets and Saturday's Top NBA Games
It's like deja vu all over again.
Three of Saturday's nine NBA games are repeat matchups from earlier this week. After scoring home wins, the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers will be looking to take their dominance on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings, respectively.
If Frito-Lay isn't sponsoring tonight's NBA slate, then some marketing execs should find themselves out of work. Chippiness promises to be out in full force.
Even with a brand new cast of characters in Bean Town, I'd be shocked if all of the bad blood's been sapped from the Boston Celtics-Miami Heat rivalry. Early Eastern Conference bragging rights are up for grabs in Brooklyn, while Houston plays host to a possible preview of the 2014 Western Conference Finals.
So put your relationships to the ultimate test and cancel those dinner reservations you made. Hoops heads, you're in good hands with the basketball gods tonight.
Saturday Night's Lineup
Utah Jazz vs. Toronto Raptors, 7 p.m. ET
Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks, 7:30 p.m. ET
Indiana Pacers vs. Brooklyn Nets, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBATV)
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 7:30 p.m. ET
Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m. ET
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets, 8 p.m. ET
Golden State Warriors vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 8 p.m. ET
Dallas Mavericks vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 8:30 p.m. ET
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Sacramento Kings, 10 p.m. ET
Best Matchup of the Night: Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Clippers
So, maybe the first meeting between these teams didn't exactly go as planned.
Well, at least as far as the Rockets are concerned.
L.A. that served up an even-worse-than-it-sounds 137-118 beating Monday night, handing Houston its first loss of the season. All five Clippers starters scored in double figures, led by J.J. Redick's 26 points and Chris Paul's 23-point, 17-assist night.
"We couldn't get a handle on them at all," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said, via ESPN.com. "They did whatever they wanted."
But a week that started with a dream-like win has quickly turned into a Clippers nightmare. L.A. has dropped two straight games, suffering road losses to both the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat.
The Rockets aren't feeling much better about themselves, though. After a bounce-back win over the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston came out on the wrong end of a 99-98 contest with the Kobe Bryant-less Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
There's no reason for either team to panic, just some kinks that need to be worked out. A little fuel to what was already a raging fire is never a bad thing.
You might want to scout your seats early for this one—it's going to be a great one. I've got the drinks if someone can get the popcorn ready.
Must-See Individual Matchup: Roy Hibbert vs. Brook Lopez
Chalk this one up for the sports-cliche writers: It's the unstoppable force and the immovable object personified.
On one side of the coin, you have perhaps the league's most complete offensive center, Brook Lopez. The 7'0" Stanford product can terrorize a defense from inside and out, and he's got the numbers to prove it.
Lopez is averaging 21.0 PPG at a 61.2 percent shooting clip. He can pull from a deep bag of offensive post tricks or step away from the basket and rain in mid-range jumpers.
But he'll have his hands full with Indiana's 7'2", 278-pound mountain of a man, Roy Hibbert.
Hibbert made it known that he has his sights set on the Defensive Player of the Year award, and the stat sheet says it might be his to lose.
The anchor of the league's best defense—Indiana sits first in defensive rating (87.5), points allowed (84.3) and field-goal percentage against (37.8)—is literally swatting everything in sight. He enters with a career-best 4.7 blocks per game, and has five or more blocks in four of his first six games.
So, who blinks first? Hopefully not us. For anyone bemoaning the downsizing in today's NBA, this is the matchup you need to see.
Who Has the Most on the Line?
Marc Gasol knows—Memphis Grizzlies players and fans alike have had too many reasons to hide their faces this season.
The Grizzlies limp into tonight's matchup with the Golden State Warriors as losers in three of their first five games. If not for an overtime win over the Detroit Pistons and a gift from the schedule-makers (i.e., playing the Boston Celtics), things could even be worse.
These aren't your slightly older brother's Grizzlies. Their offensive struggles still exist (96.6 points per game, 19th), but their defensive calling card may have been revoked (101.4 points against, 20th).
Regardless of venue, a matchup with the Warriors is a brutal measuring-stick game. But Golden State just lost a slugfest in San Antonio last night, and couldn't find any offense with Stephen Curry once again sidelined by an ankle injury (more on that later).
Memphis has had three days since its last outing, meaning there's been plenty of time to exorcise frustrations from Wednesday's 99-84 home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
"We are a little frustrated," guard Mike Conley said, via Nicolino Dibenedetto of the Associated Press. "If we lost giving the effort that we normally give and laid it all out there, we would have been fine with that."
The last thing you want is a sluggish effort against the Warriors. Curry or not, Golden State has plenty of scorers to make you pay for laziness.
It's sure to be a star-studded Saturday night, but here's a quick look at the biggest names who might not be a part of the action.
Rajon Rondo (knee): Not even his hated rivals from South Beach can get the still-hobbled Rondo off the sideline.
Anthony Bennett (shoulder): Bennett's shoulder sprain occurred just last night, via Cavs.com's Joe Gabriele, so the No. 1 pick can't use it as an excuse for his atrocious .050/.091/.500 shooting slash.
Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry (ankle): He's officially day-to-day with a bone bruise in his left ankle, which unofficially may put a lid on the Warriors basket again tonight.
Danny Granger (knee): We're nearing the end of his initial three-week time table, but the league's last standing undefeated squad has no reason to rush him back.
Jerryd Bayless (knee): He's also carrying the questionable tag into tonight. If there's no Bayless or Curry, this Warriors-Grizzlies game might be a race to 70.
Larry Sanders (thumb): A slow start on the court (2.7 points, 25.0 percent field-goal shooting) and a rough one away from it may not be getting any better as the shot-blocker is questionable with a sore thumb.
Trey Burke (finger): The Jazz could use Burke's scoring touch. Come to think of it, the league's only winless team could use a lot of different things.
*Unless otherwise noted, injury information used courtesy of CBS Sports.
Pop-in Potential: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Sacramento Kings
The latest starter of the night, this Kings-Blazers tilt is sort of like an unopposed political candidate. But it's the one you were thinking about voting for anyway, since you're impressed with the talent...even if the potential craziness worries you just a bit.
Don't sleep on this game, though. Literally, it's a late one for us East Coast folks.
Damian Lillard's been proving that his Rookie of the Year campaign wasn't a fluke. If anything, it may have been his basement. He's blitzed opposing clubs for 23.8 points a night, thanks to a sizzling .443/.476/.853 slash. He's taking more than eight threes a night and connecting on nearly half of them.
LaMarcus Aldridge is still a point-producing machine (23.6 points), while Nicolas Batum (13.2 points) seems overdue for one of those teaser games where he fills every corner of the stat sheet.
At the other end, there's the always entertaining DeMarcus Cousins. A 20-point, 10-rebound threat on any given night, he might double that against this Portland frontcourt.
Throw in promising rookie Ben McLemore and the spark plug Isaiah Thomas, and we might have a good game on our hands. Portland has the more polished talent, but if this is close early on, it could be a great finish.
With just over half the teams in play tonight, you should have some options with your lineups.
Category-fillers are always a strong play, but keep an eye out for a specialist in your weak area.
Always ride your big guns, and look for any trends that help you find that surprise pick that will help you steal a matchup. Here are your best bets for tonight.
Whatever Doc Rivers fed to Paul before this season, I'd love to get a sample.
Paul's expanded his scoring role, yet somehow hasn't lost a bit of his passing gifts. His 22.5 points are the most he's averaged since 2008-09, and his 12.5 assists are on early career-high pace.
Remember what he did to Houston the last time around. Then remember he's playing with a purpose after that rough two-game swing through South Florida.
This could be one of those games we're still talking about long after the season is over.
I thought this was the studs section? If that was your first thought, you need to keep closer tabs on the Jazz.
He may not have a lot of NBA-ready talent around him, but that only increases his value. Hayward's been good for 18 points, six rebounds and nearly five assists a night, and he should have the matchup to build those numbers.
Rudy Gay has the edge in athleticism, but he was chasing Paul George around for 35 minutes last night. George got him for 23 points, eight boards and six assists—a line I'd say you should comfortably expect from Hayward in Toronto.
It should go without saying, but let me say it anyway...keep an eye on Curry's status before plugging Douglas into your lineup.
If Curry's a no-go, then Douglas is a must-start.
He torched a good Spurs defense for 21 points in less than 28 minutes last night, shooting 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. He doesn't have Curry's floor game (just one assist), but the Warriors will use his floor spacing just the same.
If you're looking for cheap scoring and three-point shooting, look no further than Douglas. After you check on Curry, of course.