Rockets Caught Flat–Footed In Game One, Must Ignite Quickly To Salvage Series

The Houston Rockets looked AWFUL this past Monday Night in Game One of their Western Conference second round series with the Los Angeles Clippers. A gift had been handed to them in the form of a hamstring injury to star Clipper star Chris Paul. Houston couldn’t open the package! Instead, they:

*Kept throwing the ball away
*Kept allowing open looks to the Clippers offense
*Kept embarrassing themselves and the sport of basketball!

The Clippers were ready to lay down and take their medicine in hopes that Paul could return Wednesday for Game Two. Instead, Houston missed market expectations by 23 points with one of the worst playoff efforts we’ve seen from a favorite in recent memory.

We’ll run through the boxscore lowlights for Houston in a moment (23 turnovers at home vs. a shorthanded team not known for great defense!). First, since this is our initial discussion of this series, we need to review JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats to set the tone. The numbers below are from the regular season…

Offensive Efficiency
LA Clippers: 109.8 per 100 possessions (ranked #1 in the NBA)
Houston: 104.2 per 100 possessions (ranked #12 in the NBA)

Houston has a reputation for having a great offense and a mediocre defense. It’s amazing what a bad job the media does of explaining reality in this sport. Once you adjust for pace (Houston’s the second fastest team in the league behind Golden State), the Rockets offense falls down to #12. They create the illusion of great offense by running, gunning, and emphasizing treys. There are more negatives than realized. In actuality, it’s the CLIPPERS who have the elite offense when healthy. Chris Paul is still an MVP caliber player. There’s a variety of weapons in the starting lineup that allow the offense to score from all over. Big edge here to the Clippers if Paul can return near 100%.

Defensive Efficiency
LA Clippers: 103.0 per 100 possessions (ranked #15 in the NBA)
Houston: 100.5 per 100 possessions (ranked #6 in the NBA)

On the other side of the coin, the Clippers get WAY too much credit for blocking shots. That’s great for highlight reels…but it often hides other weaknesses. LAC only has a league average defense in the big picture. It’s Houston that’s surprisingly good at disrupting what opponents are trying to do (at least until this past Monday!). Seems like we’ve been talking about backward media explanations since the middle of college hoops season. Wake up ESPN and TNT! Don’t just say the word “efficiency” every so often. Understand what it means!

Pace Ranking
LA Clippers: #10
Houston: #2

Houston is frantic, which gets them into way too much trouble vs. quality opposition. The Clippers are faster than average, which means they know what to do in the open court. Because playoff basketball tends to slow down…those pace differences likely favor the Clippers. They’re more comfortable in the halfcourt game unless James Harden can win four games for the Rockets on his own.

Against the Spread
LA Clippers: 37–44–1
Houston: 48–34

The Clippers go on the list of teams who were overrated in the regular season but have kicked things up a notch in the playoffs. Houston may soon be on the list of teams that made big money for backers during the regular season, only to fall apart when it was time to step up in class. Oddsmakers and a few sharps are struggling out of the gate to pin down the current reality.

That was certainly the case in Game One of this series…where some of the smartest in the markets greatly overestimated Houston’s win potential.

GAME ONE STATS
LA Clippers 117, Houston 101
Shooting Pct: Clippers 49%, Houston 45%
Three–Pointers: Clippers 13/31, Houston 11/33
Free Throws: Clippers 22/30, Houston 14/24
Rebounds: Clippers 42, Houston 35
Turnovers: Clippers 21, Houston 23
Vegas Line: Houston by 7.5, total of 212

Wow…44 combined turnovers! At least the Clippers were missing their point guard and had an excuse. How often did Blake Griffin bring the ball up? Houston was as sloppy as it gets in what should have been a jugular spot. At least they’ve mastered the behind–the–back pass to the other team. Important edge to the Clippers in rebounding. And, if Houston isn’t going to outscore opponents from three–point land, they don’t have much of a chance to compete vs. quality.

In many ways an inspirational second half from a tired Clippers team that had every reason to take the game off. Humiliating loss for a Rockets team that never answered the wake up call even though the phone was ringing through the first three quarters.

Wednesday’s Game Two Line: No Line pending status of Chris Paul

Hard to know what’s going to happen here. The Clippers might now decide to blow off Game Two since they’ve already earned the split. If Paul sits, and that’s the mindset, then the line will be a repeat of –7ish, possibly higher. But, we’ve now seen clear evidence that LAC is the better team in terms of playoff basketball…which means they have a chance to steal Game Two as well!

JIM HURLEY won’t release a play here unless there’s real value for his clients. You can purchase the final word for Wednesday (this game plus Game Two of Bulls/Cavaliers) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours. Please ask about combination packages that include Major League Baseball and the rest of the Triple Crown horse races.

The NBA Playoffs take a day off tomorrow, so we’ll run some baseball notes. The baskets resume on Friday…and we’ll check in once apiece with each series through Mother’s Day Weekend.

Thursday: MLB Notes (no basketball on the schedule)
Friday: Cleveland at Chicago Game Three Preview
Saturday: Golden State at Memphis Game Three Preview
Sunday: Houston at LA Clippers Game Four Preview
Monday: Atlanta at Washington Game Four Preview
Tuesday: Most pivotal Game Five of Chicago/Cleveland and LAC/Houston
Wednesday: Most pivotal Game Five of Washington/Atlanta and Memphis/GS

With three road teams winning their series openers…we could be in for a wild and crazy second round! Be sure you read the NOTEBOOK every day for helpful handicapping tips…and hook up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for THE BEST BETS ON THE BOARD!

Be sure to follow:
Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
Vegas–Sports–Masters on twitter @vsmasters

 

19
Aug

Today’s Hot Plays