Before placing your NBA picks for the Clippers-Rockets Playoffs series, understand that the Western Conference semifinals now have 4 teams that haven't been to the NBA Finals in the past 20 years.
The Los Angeles Clippers Can Win Because…
While Chris Paul is likely to miss Game 1, he should eventually be back. It is highly possible that Paul will miss Game 1 entirely and it’s also possible that Paul will play limited minutes without being nearly as effective as he was on Saturday, powered by adrenaline and the need to save his team’s season from ending. The Rockets should grab Game 1 but the question then becomes how Paul will be able to physically regroup for Game 2 and the rest of the series. If Paul can be decent – not great, but decent – the Clippers have Blake Griffin to carry most of the scoring load, and J.J. Redick to become the knockdown shooter who can give the team inside-outside scoring balance. If the bench – especially Jamal Crawford and Glen Davis – can play as well as it did in Game 7 versus San Antonio, the Clippers should have a good chance of being able to make up ground as the series goes along. The Rockets have James Harden and Dwight Howard, but this is a series in which a guy such as Josh Smith – who had an easy time against the limp defense of the Dallas Mavericks – is likely going to struggle. The Clippers play much tougher defense and should be able to bother Houston enough to hold the Rockets under 100 points in multiple games. If the Clippers can achieve that, they should be able to win this series in six games.
The Houston Rockets Can Win Because…
This is a series in which NBA odds are favoring Houston, as they are extremely likely to win Game 1 and that will get the ball rolling for them.
In Game 7 of the tremendous first-round series between the Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs, L.A. point guard Chris Paul sustained a hamstring injury. He had to miss several minutes in the first half and a few more late in the third quarter. Yet, with Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers being the Clippers’ only backup point guard options. If this is the way it’s going to be going forward, the Clippers are in trouble.
It’s pretty clear that the Clippers don’t have much of a bench and they don’t have home-court advantage. If Paul is hampered on top of that, the Rockets will win this series. Don’t underestimate rest here as the Rockets only needed five easy games to get rid of the Mavericks while the Clippers just over-exerted themselves in a gruesome seven-game series. Advantage Houston.
We don’t know Paul’s status just yet but since he played in Game 7, I’m guessing he’ll be fine for this series. Even so, it might be a little too much for the Clippers to handle. Houston is much softer than the Rockets but what do the Clippers have left in the tank? And this time, they won’t have home-court advantage. I’ll take a shot with the Rockets with my NBA picks here as they are deeper, healthier, more rested and have the extra game at home.
NBA Pick: Rockets in 6 at The Greek