PREGAME REPORT | MARCH 30, 2013
Tipoff: 5:00 p.m. PST | Toyota Center | Houston, TX | Game Notes »
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The Clippers may be glad to put the state of Texas in their rear-view mirror after Saturday night’s game in Houston, at least until playoff time.
The Clippers (49-24), who have suffered a pair of excruciating defeats to Dallas and San Antonio in the last four days, conclude their four-game road trip Saturday against the Houston Rockets (39-33).
The game will have playoff implications as the Clippers are tightly nestled in the No. 4 seed, 0.5 game back of the Denver Nuggets for the No. 3 spot and 0.5 up on the Memphis Grizzlies in the No. 5 slot. The teams are even in the loss column with 24.
Meanwhile, the Rockets are fighting for positioning in the bottom-half of the Western Conference playoff picture. They trail the Golden State Warriors by 1.5 games for the No. 6 seed and are trying to fend off the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers, both trailing the Rockets by 1.5 games from the No. 8 and 9 slots respectively.
A victory for the Clippers, combined with Warriors loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, would give the Clippers their first division title in franchise history.
LAST TIME OUT
Spurs 104, Clippers 102: The Clippers held a one-point lead with 31 seconds to go but Tim Duncan capped off a 34-point performance, converting the game-winning 3-point play with 2.2 seconds left to give the Spurs the victory. The Clippers missed a chance to win their first season series against San Antonio in the Duncan-era.
Paul finished the game with 14 points and 12 assists and Jamal Crawford added 16 points in 30 minutes off the bench as both men figured heavily in giving the Clippers a chance to win. Crawford drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner to tie the game at 99 and Paul blocked Tiago Splitter’s layup attempt on the ensuing Spurs possession. Paul recovered the rebound and took it the length of the court in transition, hitting a right-handed floater over Danny Green to give the Clippers a 101-99 lead.
But it was the last basket the Clippers would convert in the game. Tony Parker found Duncan for the game-tying layup and, after a free-throw from Paul gave the Clippers a one-point lead, Duncan hit a free-throw line jumper while getting bumped by Willie Green.
The Clippers had a chance to win the game after Duncan converted the free throw, but Paul missed a shot over Parker from the right block as time expired.
“The biggest play of the game was probably when we were up by one, had the ball and I didn’t even get a shot attempt up,” Paul said. “That’s terrible and we can’t do that. When we’re up by one, I’ve at least got to get a shot up on the rim. If I made that shot, it would have been a three-point game.”
Grizzlies 103, Rockets 94: Chandler Parsons and rookie Donatas Motiejunas scored 16 points apiece for the Rockets but Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each dropped 21 to lead the Grizzlies to victory.
The Rockets shot 42% for the game and trailed by 15 points after three quarters before head coach Kevin McHale called upon his bench to finish the game out in the final quarter. The second unit responded by going on an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to single digits.But the Grizzlies big men proved to be too much to handle as Randolph scored six consecutive points to put the game away.
Chris Paul vs. James Harden. Although the teams have played twice, this will be the first game where the two guards will be on the floor at the same time. Paul missed the first meeting in Houston with a bruised right kneecap and Harden was out of the second game in Los Angeles due to a sprained right ankle and sore left knee. The Clippers won both times.
The Clippers handled Harden well in their first meeting in Houston, holding the All-Star shooting guard to 8-for-20 shooting and forcing him to commit five turnovers. Harden, who is fifth in the league in scoring at 26.2 points per game, is also coming off one of his worst performances of the season. He scored seven points in the Rockets loss to Memphis. It was the first time he was held to single digits since he managed six points in an 11-point loss to the Utah Jazz back on Nov. 19.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
The Bench. The Clippers bench has had a slight resurgence in the last couple of games, outscoring their opponents’ second units each time. It began in New Orleans when the Clippers’ second unit out-performed the Hornets’ reserves 39-30 and followed that with a 40-22 advantage against the Spurs.
Not surprisingly, Crawford has been one of the main reasons for the bench’s bounce back. He shot 7-for-12 from the field in San Antonio after he scored 13 points in 23 minutes against the Hornets.
Lawler’s Lawbreakers. It’s been a rough stretch in Texas for the law. The Clippers were the first to reach the century mark against the Mavericks and did it again in San Antonio to no avail. The Clippers are now 47-5 this season when “Lawler’s Law” is in their favor.
Chauncey Billups (strained right groin) is listed as day-to-day but is not expected to play in Houston…The Clippers have won five straight games against the Rockets, including two straight wins in Houston… This will be the third and final meeting of the season between the two teams. The Clippers have already clinched the season-series, winning the first two… A fast start typically means a win for the Clippers. They have led at the end of the first quarter 40 times this year and are 37-3 on those occasions (best in the NBA)