Clippers-Rockets Preview


An inability to slow down opponents in the paint has plagued the Houston Rockets of late.

Unfortunately for the Rockets, they know all too well how dominant the Los Angeles Clippers can be down low.

Hoping to avoid losing back-to-back home games for the first time in over a year, Houston tries to avenge an earlier blowout defeat to the Clippers on Sunday night.

Ranking third from the bottom of the league with an average of 46.4 points allowed in the paint, the Rockets (21-16) have experienced plenty of difficulty in that area over their last two games. After surrendering 58 points in the paint during Wednesday's 104-83 loss at Utah, Houston fell 117-105 to Denver on Friday as the Nuggets scored 52 points in the lane.

The Rockets have been outrebounded in nine consecutive games and gave up 19 offensive boards Friday.

"They threw it up there, and then they threw us out of the lane and got it (the ball)," coach Kevin McHale told the league's official website. " ... We've had two games in a row where they've (the opponent) out-toughed us."

Houston also had trouble slowing down the Clippers (21-13) inside during a 117-89 road loss Jan. 4. Los Angeles recorded 62 points in the paint and shot a season-high 57.3 percent from the field.

"We struggled with everything," Rockets forward Luis Scola said following that contest. "We came in here and weren't ready to play, and this is what happens when you don't play hard. I don't know how to explain it."

The Clippers, in contrast, failed to get much going in Friday's 81-78 loss at Phoenix. Los Angeles shot 36.8 percent from the floor and matched its second-lowest scoring output of the season.

"I don't know what it is. I don't know if it was both of us coming off a game (the night before)," said Chris Paul, who finished with 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting. "We're not going to make any excuses or whatever. At the end of the day we gave ourselves the opportunity to win."

Leading the team in scoring (21.3 ppg), Blake Griffin scored 17 on a season-worst 6 of 19 (31.6 percent) from the field.

"I felt like we were really dead and didn't have it," he said. "There was not a lot of energy."

In the midst of a six-game road swing, Los Angeles hasn't posted back-to-back victories over Houston since a five-game run in the series spanning the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.

The Rockets, who have compiled a 15-5 record at home this season, haven't lost two in a row on their own court since Feb. 8 and 12, 2011.

The Clippers have dropped seven of eight and 13 of 16 in Houston.

Kevin Martin made six 3's and scored a season-high 35 points Friday for the Rockets, bouncing back from a six-point effort in the loss to Utah two days earlier. He is, however, averaging just 14.0 points lifetime versus the Clippers - his second-lowest mark against any opponent.

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