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Clippers vs. Rockets Betting Odds Picks & Predictions: Will Small-Ball Work Against Kawhi & Co.?

Clippers vs. Rockets Betting Odds Picks & Predictions: Will Small-Ball Work Against Kawhi & Co.? article feature image

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers and Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers defend James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets.

  • The Clippers (-1) and the Rockets square off (8 p.m. ET, TNT) in a mammoth Western Conference showdown on Thursday night.
  • Will the Rockets new, intuitive small-ball approach properly spread out Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers?
  • See the full betting breakdown below.

This matchup has been a treat to watch all season, especially if you’ve bet the Houston Rockets. The Rockets enter this matchup with a 3-0 record against the spread vs. the Los Angeles Clippers this season and are 2-1 straight up.

However, the Rockets are a much different team since these two team last matchup. Will Houston’s new style lead to another win against LA’s dynamic duo and bench unit?

Our crew breaks down the betting trends and key matchups and gives their picks below.

Clippers at Rockets Picks, Betting Odds & Predictions

  • Spread: Clippers -1
  • Over/Under: 236.5
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: TNT

Odds as of Thursday and via FanDuel. Get up to a $500 risk-free bet at FanDuel today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

Betting Trend to Know

Nearly 70% of bets are on the Clippers to cover the spread tonight. It has been a bad idea to doubt the Rockets. This season Houston is 10-5 against the spread when getting less than 50% of bets. — John Ewing

Brandon Anderson: The Perfect Opponent

Clippers at Rockets feels like it should be a late May game, and perhaps it will be. For tonight, it’s a marquee matchup and a great playoff preview with both teams at full strength and ready to battle.

Houston is exclusively a small-ball team now. Perhaps you’ve heard. Ever since dumping Clint Capela and adding Robert Covington to their lineup, they’ve gone all-in on small lineups with Covington and P.J. Tucker as the de facto bigs.

No Capela in the middle has opened up the lane, and Russell Westbrook is having one of the finest stretches of his career, careening toward the basket on drive after drive and suddenly looking every bit as valuable as James Harden.

That small-ball lineup has dominated teams at times, but I worry about it against these Clippers. The one weakness we’ve known the Clips would have all year is defending the rim. Ivica Zubac has done an admirable job in somewhat limited minutes, but these Clippers are not built to win big. But holy cow could they be a terrifying small-ball team.

Take Zubac out and sub in Montrezl Harrell’s energy at center and see what happens. Which Rockets player is keeping Harrell off the boards? Better yet, take Harrell out and play Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Marcus Morris with two of L.A.’s many guard options. Switchable defense, anyone? Eat your heart out.

Send Westbrook on a pick-and-roll? Congratulations, you just switched him onto Leonard, George, or Morris. Maybe you prefer a Harden iso? Nope, Kawhi or PG are all over that too. OK, how about hunting Landry Shamet or Lou Williams? Congratulations, hope you enjoy your Tucker or Covington iso matchup.

If you were trying to build a team to beat the Rockets, you’d think you want a big man like Joel Embiid or Anthony Davis to pound them on the inside. But isn’t that exactly what the Houston math nerds want? If small-ball and 3s over 2s are king, then why not beat the Rockets at their own game? No one is built better to do that than the Clippers.

It’s only the regular season, so I do worry a little that L.A. may not want to play too many cards here. Still, the Clippers have only fielded a fully-healthy lineup a handful of times this season, and they’ve been quite dominant in those instances.

I’m riding the healthy Clippers tonight. Hopefully this showdown lives up to expectations.

THE PICK: Clippers -1
[Bet now at DraftKings. NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

Moore: My Leans on Tonight’s Game

So the Clippers have been broadcasting that they are undefeated “with a full roster.” But that’s including JaMychal Green (a really good player, but, I mean), who was out for the last time these two teams played. Or it includes the idea that Marcus Morris fundamentally makes them a decisively better team, and I don’t agree with that.

Houston’s trade deadline upgrade was undoubtedly better.

However, when Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet have all played, the Clippers are 9-4 ATS … but just 4-3 ATS vs. teams over .500. They’re also giving up 112 points in those contests and 46% shooting. The over is 5-2 in those games.

The Rockets are 6-2 ATS with their new lineup at full strength and 3-0 as a dog. The under is 3-0 in all three of those games, as they are scoring only 117 per contest. The Clippers, since acquiring Morris, are 20th in pace. Houston’s ninth since going to small-ball, but even that isn’t lightning-fast.

Part of the consequence of facing a switching defense when you’re an ISO-heavy team like the Clippers (ninth in ISO possessions per game), is that you will inevitably begin hunting for the mismatch you want. The Clippers will be targeting James Harden, going through the switches they want to get the matchup they want. That takes time off the clock.

Houston will go the other way, but the Clippers are ninth in transition points per possession allowed, via Synergy Sports. The Clippers are also just 10th per 100 possessions since the All-Star break in points off turnovers allowed. Houston’s scheme focuses on those.

I lean slightly towards the Rockets, but I lean heavier towards the under at such a high figure.

Joe Dellera: Small-Ball Put to the Test

Tonight’s marquee match-up between two Western Conference powerhouses will put small-ball to the test.

The Rockets took the basketball world by storm when they shipped Capela off at the trade deadline as they went all in on their small-ball, 3-point barrage mentality. The Rockets have become a mathematician’s dream as they prefer to take shots that would produce the most amount of points per possession.

This strategy has lead them to a 7-3 record since the trade deadline, but the questions still linger: Is this sustainable? Can you really ball without a big man over 6-foot-7? How will they fare against the Lakers and Clippers?

Yes, this is sustainable due to ball movement and a reliance on highly efficient shots. Yes, the Rockets are an absolute nightmare for teams that lack perimeter defenders and the ability to play switch coverage against anyone on the floor. We’ve seen them match-up against the Lakers and excel, but the Clippers are a totally different animal.

Although it’s less publicized and scrutinized, the Clippers’ preferred lineup also qualifies as small-ball (as Brandon noted above) with Montrezl Harrell at 6-foot-8. This game will have ebbs and flows as the Rockets are prone to streaks with their reliance on 3-point shots. But to finish this game, the Clippers will roll out Patrick Beverly, Leonard, George, Morris, and Harrell to effectively clamp down on the Rockets’ firepower.

I expect this game to slow down as the Clippers will be able to frustrate the Rockets offensive weapons. On Nov. 22, the Rockets did everything right and they still lost to the Clippers (without Marcus Morris).

This line is just too short and the Clippers should not be discounted on the road.

The PICK: Clippers -1
[Bet now at DraftKings. NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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