Houston won’t be able to regain the Southwest Division lead on Saturday night, but the Rockets can accomplish something they haven’t since the early 1990s: win 30 or more games at home in back-to-back seasons.
Hosting the lowly Los Angeles Clippers should help Houston achieve this goal.
The Rockets (47-26) look to improve to 30-8 at the Toyota Center while keeping pressure on San Antonio, which holds a 1 1/2-game lead in the Southwest. Sunday’s 87-85 win over the Spurs vaulted the Rockets to the top of the division standings for the first time since late December. The Rockets, though, are trying to bounce back from Tuesday’s 99-86 loss at Utah that snapped their four-game winning streak.
“We were very impatient offensively and it cost us,” said Houston coach Rick Adelman, whose team matched its second-worst shooting performance of the season at 34.8 percent. “I thought we forced the issue in the second half.”
The Rockets, though, are shooting 47.2 percent while winning 14 of their last 16 at home. With a third straight home win Saturday, Houston would inch closer to last season’s 31 victories at the Toyota Center. The last time the Rockets posted consecutive 30-plus home wins in a season was 1992-94.
Yao Ming goes for his third straight double-double against the Clippers. He had 24 points and 10 rebounds in a 103-96 victory on Dec. 3 in the teams’ last game in Houston—the Rockets’ third straight home win in this matchup.
Yao is shooting just 45.0 percent in his last three games, but he could have a big game against the slumping Clippers as one of the league’s top rebounders and defensive players, Marcus Camby, sprained his left ankle in the opening minutes of Friday’s 111-98 loss to San Antonio.
Camby—averaging 10.7 points and 11.5 rebounds—could be sidelined for up to two weeks.
Ron Artest looks to break out of a season-long shooting slump as he faces a Clippers team that’s allowed six of its last eight opponents to shoot 50 percent or better from the field. Artest is having one of his worst shooting seasons, making just 40.2 percent. In Tuesday’s loss, the first-year Rocket missed 17-of-22 shots but approached a triple-double with 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Artest averaged 21.0 points, 6.0 boards and 4.0 assists as Houston won the first two meetings with the Clippers this season. He was sidelined with a sore right ankle in the 95-82 loss in Los Angeles on Dec. 13.
The Rockets made 35.6 percent from the floor in that defeat, ending their seven-game winning streak against the Clippers.
Los Angeles, though, has won just 12 of 50 games since that victory. The Clippers (18-55) arrive in Houston with 10 losses in their last 11 games away from Staples Center. Friday’s defeat dropped Los Angeles to 1-4 on its six-game trip.
Along with Camby going down, the Clippers were without Baron Davis, who was sidelined with the stomach flu.
Mike Taylor, however, continues to impress after scoring a team-high 23 points against the Spurs. The rookie guard had a season-high 35 on Wednesday when Los Angeles snapped a nine-game skid on the road, defeating the New York Knicks 140-135 in overtime.
Zach Randolph is scoring 26.5 points per game with 12.0 rebounds in two matchup versus the Rockets this season.
The Clippers’ last win in Houston was 98-93 on Dec. 23, 2006, when Yao fractured the bone under his right knee in the first quarter.