The Los Angeles Clippers were able to pull off the unexpected in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series in Houston against the Rockets.
The Los Angeles Clippers Can Win Because…
They have just shown that they can win under any set of circumstances, no matter how dire, and this is something to keep in mind when looking at the NBA odds. The Clippers were viewed as dead ducks in Game 1 without Paul, but they not only won on the road; they blew out the Rockets by 16 points, pulling away in a fourth quarter they won by 10 points, 34-24. Austin Rivers replaced Paul and scored 17 points, hitting 4 of 6 three-pointers. J.J. Redick scored 17 points as well. Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score 21. Matt Barnes was 8 of 11 from the field, scoring 20 points and shooting as well as he has in a very long time. Every Clipper starter scored in double figures. The Clippers were balanced, and finished the game with a 48.8 percent shooting rate from the field. They were 73 percent from the free throw line, and missed only three free throws from players other than DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers were especially effective on offense in the second half, scoring 71 points after halftime. If Chris Paul can play any reasonable length of time in Game 2, the Clippers should be able to embarrass Houston’s defense. The Clippers have established such a precedent with a 16-point win over the Rockets without Paul that they should be able to continue to operate with efficiency and energy. They certainly had a lot more energy in Game 1 despite having only one day off following a long and grueling seven-game series against the San Antonio Spurs.
One more reason to pick the Clippers: Houston committed 23 turnovers in Game 1. The Rockets were careless with the ball, and that was without Los Angeles applying tremendous defensive pressure. So many Houston mistakes were just sloppy, and that’s why the Clippers can pounce again in Game 2.
The Houston Rockets Can Win Because…
Their opponent is still not sure if it will have Chris Paul. There’s going to be a lot of talk before Game 2 about whether Paul will play or not. The Clippers could rest him if they feel he’s not quite ready. Los Angeles would want to make sure Paul could play each remaining game in the series, ensuring that it could win all its home games in the series (3, 4, and 6 if necessary). It’s true that Los Angeles won without Paul in Game 1, but doing so twice would seem to be harder to believe. Houston was rusty after a long layoff before Game 1, but now the Rockets should be able to play with more rhythm and settle into the series. Los Angeles did commit 21 turnovers in Game 1 – it’s the one statistic which suggests Houston can exploit the Clippers without Paul.
If Paul doesn’t play very much, Houston – embarrassed by its Game 1 performance – should be able to rise up and win in Game 2. They simply can’t head back to Los Angeles down 2-0, so take them with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Houston at WagerWeb