Rockets vs Clippers Prediction, Picks Tonight | Best In-Season Tournament Bet
Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers dribbles the ball while defended by Jeff Green #32 of the Houston Rockets in the second half at Toyota Center. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Rockets vs Clippers Prediction, Picks for Friday, Nov. 17
Here's everything you need to know about Rockets vs Clippers on Friday, Nov. 17 — our expert prediction and betting picks for today.
Teams don't get more desperate than the Clippers, who are now winless in five games with James Harden following a heartbreaking loss to the Nuggets on Tuesday. With the Rockets coming to town, could their first win since the acquisition of Harden be imminent?
Let's get to our Rockets vs Clippers prediction and pick.
Rockets vs Clippers Prediction
The Rockets have been one of the surprises early in the season, sitting in the top five in defensive efficiency and 12th on the offensive end. They've run the slowest-paced offense in the league, digging in their heels on defense and overachieving on the opposite end to get out to a 6-3 start.
Now, this is a game in which the Clippers really can't afford to lose. We saw a desperate team with nothing to lose earlier in the week against Denver. In that game, the Clippers survived a bad game from Kawhi Leonard to take the lead late, only to be overcome by the Nuggets' high-octane offense.
I don't have much interest in laying the points here with the Clippers, but I can confidently say that Ty Lue's bunch will find a way to win here. They've had a very difficult schedule since acquiring Harden, going against some of the best defenses in basketball, and while this will be another tough test we can rest on the fact that the Clippers put a real scare into the Nuggets on Tuesday. James Harden looked better than any time we've seen him in a Clippers uniform and if not for a smaller lineup, L.A. may have won that game.
Expanding on what I passed along above, the calling card for the Rockets this season has been their exceptionally slow play. Their Pace rating of 96.88 ranks dead last in the league, just below the Knicks and Nuggets. They love to operate the offense through the hands of Alperen Sengun, who has a team-best 24.8 PER and 19.4 points per game, commanding the third-highest Usage Rate on the team. They're running a whopping 82.7% of their plays in the halfcourt, according to Cleaning the Glass, and rank fifth in points per play in such scenarios.
On top of that, the Rockets rank fifth in points per play allowed when they've been in half-court sets, but the one area they can get caught in a bind is on the glass where they're just 17th in the NBA. It's one thing to defend the half court well, but it's another to successfully end the possession with a defensive rebound. Currently, they're eighth in that category, and the weakness they've showed has been on the offensive glass.
In terms of injuries, there's nothing new to report here. They're still without Victor Oladipo and rookie Amen Thompson, who was injured just a few games into the season.
The big question here, as has been the case in seasons past, is how much Ty Lue is willing to use Ivica Zubac. The eight-year veteran is the only real bigman that the Clippers have, and as Lue has tried to kick this offense into gear he's opted to go small with newly-acquired PJ Tucker taking on some of the defensive responsibilities inside along with Kawhi Leonard in crunch time. They're also still without Mason Plumlee, which really puts their frontcourt in a bind.
Zubac has logged just 25 minutes per game through 10 contests, which is a significant drop-off from the career-high 28.6 minutes per game he earned last season with L.A. Since Harden has come to town, he's averaged around 26 minutes, but in the last three games he's seen just 24 per game. This could be particularly interesting with Sengun on the opposite end of the floor. We'll have to see how much Lue wants to combat his presence on offense and how much he wants to put faith in his smaller lineup to generate offense.
The good news here for the Clippers is that while they've been abysmal defending in transition, they're inside the top five in half-court defense and have been just outside the top 10 in overall efficiency since adding Harden. They're also 11th in offensive rebounding rate, but just 26th when it comes to limiting opponents on the offensive glass.
Rockets vs Clippers Picks, Odds
This one has all the makings of a very tricky matchup for the Clippers. While I trust their defense, we have to also trust what we've seen thus far from Lue's rotation, which is to limit the time Zubac is on the floor. This, mixed in with a general failure to rebound on the defensive glass could provide the Rockets an edge they don't already need.
I do think the Clippers offense is rounding into form and will ultimately take them across the finish line, but with so few possessions and an incredibly efficient Rockets team on the other side of the floor this one should be a close affair. It's never fun to fade a team that will come out with their backs against the wall, scrapping for a win, but given the decline in minutes for Zubac I think the Rockets should be able to lean on Sengun here and keep pace.
This is ultimately far too many points to spot a hot, upstart Houston team.
Pick: Rockets +7.5
Bet Rockets vs. Clippers with the latestBetMGM bonus code.