Clippers Should Rout Nothing-To-Play-For Rockets

blake griffin james harden

Matthew Jordan

Sunday, April 9, 2017 10:07 PM GMT

Just three days left in the NBA’s regular season as of Monday. NBA betting this time of year is which teams have a reason to care and which don’t. It would appear Monday’s Rockets at Clippers matchup is all about differing motivations.

Houston Rockets At Los Angeles Clippers (-4.5, 228.5)

It’s the second of a back-to-back for Houston so I’m thinking a key guy or two might sit this one out because the Rockets have absolutely nothing to play for. They are locked into the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed and will play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs. That has to be the marquee matchup of that round with James Harden going up against Russell Westbrook. Those two are neck-and-neck at every sportsbook in regards to winning the NBA MVP Award. If I was voting, I’d have to give it to Westbrook considering he’s just the second player to average a triple-double for a full season. Then again, the first guy who did it, Oscar Robertson in 1961-62, didn’t win the MVP that year. Bill Russell did. Harden likely wins in a landslide most years as he was averaging 29.2 points, 11.2 assists (first in NBA) and 8.1 rebounds entering Sunday. He will join Robertson as the only players in NBA history to have averaged at least 29.0 points, 11.0 assists and 8.0 rebounds in a single season.

The Rockets rested Eric Gordon, a top Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Trevor Ariza and Nene on Sunday in Sacramento. Nene is dealing with a finger issue so he won’t play here. Gordon and Ariza should. I don’t think Harden will get a game off because he badly wants to win the MVP and has to make his case as much as possible. Coach Mike D'Antoni said he is planning to play Harden in the rest of the way but he could cut back his minutes. (Update: Lou Williams will sit vs. L.A.)

The Clippers still have reason to play all their guys as they are tied with Utah for the fourth seed in the West and home-court advantage in the first round. Those two are going to be playing each other. The Clippers won the season series so they own the tiebreaker. L.A’s final game is home to Sacramento on Wednesday. Utah is in Golden State on Monday and then home to San Antonio on Wednesday. Obviously a harder schedule, but the Warriors and Spurs have nothing to play for and could rest guys.

I believe the Clippers are the second-best team in the West right now as they are on a five-game winning streak but +3000 longer shots on NBA odds to win the conference. They are likely going to face the Warriors in the conference semifinals. Can L.A. beat Golden State? Likely only if Kevin Durant or Steph Curry were to get injured. The Warriors are -400 West favorites.

Blake Griffin is playing at an MVP level of late as he’s averaging 28.6 points on 62.7 percent shooting, 7.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists in the winning streak. Houston is 2-0 vs. the Clippers this year, winning 140-116 at home on Dec. 30 and 122-103 in L.A. on March 1. The Rockets are looking to sweep the season series for the first time since going 3-0 in 2007-08.

Harden is averaging 28.0 points (56.7% FGs), 9.5 assists, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals vs. L.A. this season. Griffin only played in the March game and had 17 points. DeAndre Jordan is averaging 15.0 ppg on 14-for-17 shooting vs. Houston along with 11 rebounds. He leads the NBA in shooting 71.3 percent from the field and is third in rebounding at 13.8 rpg. That shooting percentage is the second-highest single-season mark in NBA history (Wilt Chamberlain, 1972-73 at 72.7).  A win here would be the 216th as Clippers coach for Doc Rivers, which would set a franchise record. He’s currently tied with Mike Dunleavy at 215.

Free NBA Pick: Clippers -4.5Best Line Offered: BookMaker

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