Coming off of a close loss to the NBA champions Golden State Warriors, the 4-1 Los Angeles Clippers return home to host James Harden and the Houston Rockets. After becoming the first team in NBA history to lose their first three games by 20 points or more in each instance, the Rockets have bounced back by winning their last three games, against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, and Sacramento Kings. On the flip side, the Clippers started their season by winning their first four games before dropping the contest against the Warriors.
For the Clippers, their All-Star forward and human highlight reel Blake Griffin has started the season extremely well, averaging over 28 points, nine rebounds, and four assists per game. Impossibly, due to the electric nightly Broadway performances by Stephen Curry of the Warriors, Griffin has not been in the spotlight, but he has evolved his game even further, returning to the low post and has shown increased aggression and versatility. Against the Warriors, Griffin had an impressive all-around game with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.
Additionally for the Clippers, Chris Paul has started the season with his usual strong play, averaging 17 points, four rebounds, over eight assists, and over 1.5 steals per game. Against the Warriors on Wednesday, Paul had an excellent game with 24 points, nine assists, and three steals, but down the stretch, he was held out by Head Coach Doc Rivers for a crucial moment with what was later described as a minor groin injury. Reports say that he should be good to go for tonight's game. However, it is curious why in a two-position game Paul was held out of an important possession late in a rivalry game.
On the other side, after a slow start for the Rockets, James Harden finally broke out with a 43-point and 13-assist show in a win against the Sacramento Kings. Impressively, his game came on only 23 field goal attempts, displaying both his efficiency, and his ability to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line, where he attempted 16 shots.
Also impressive for the Rockets has been the strong play of second-year big man Clint Capela, who has done an admirable job of filling in for and backing up starting center Dwight Howard, who is having moments of brilliance, but is also is being rested consistently. Against the Kings, Capela scored 13 points, grabbed 12 big rebounds, and blocked four shots. In his rookie season, Capela had the dubious honor of missing the most free throws without a single made one in NBA history, but in his second year, he is showing his size, athleticism, and potential. It is unclear how many minutes he will see tonight, given that Howard should play against the Clippers, but either way, expect continued improvement from Capela.
This game should be a nail-biter, as three of the NBA's premier players clash. Look for the Clippers to win at home in a close contest tonight.