Clippers vs Rockets Preview & Free Pick [3/5/2020]

LA Clippers (42-19) at Houston (39-21)
When: Thursday, March 5th, 2020
Where: Toyota Center,
Houston, TX
Time: 8:05 ET | TV: TNT
Opening Odds: Houston -1.5/237

The Western Conference playoff race is probably not coming down to who gets the top seed – the Los Angeles Lakers are in control – but who gets the second and third spots. It’s important because those two seeds would avoid the Lakers until the conference finals and two of those teams battling for that position take the court Thursday night. The Los Angeles Clippers visit the Houston Rockets in a TNT matchup with the Clippers holding a one game lead over the Denver Nuggets for the No. 2 seed entering Wednesday’s action. The Rockets sit fourth, 2.5 games behind L.A. and would love to gain a game tonight. This will be the fourth and final meeting between these teams during the regular season with Houston holding a 2-1 lead, so a victory here would get it a huge potential head-to-head tiebreaker for playoff seeding. All three of the previous meetings were played before Christmas and the Rockets are a different team now with their small-ball lineup. NBA scoring leader James Harden is averaging 37.3 points and 9.7 assists vs. the Clippers this year, while Russell Westbrook is at 26.3 points and 5.7 rebounds. Clint Capela was terrific in the first three meetings with 15.7 rebounds per contest, but he was traded last month in that shift to a smaller lineup. Paul George leads the Clippers in averaging 26.5 points in two meetings, while Kawhi Leonard is putting up 25.0 points and 9.0 rebounds. The Rockets have won five of the past eight at home in this series, but the teams have split their past 10 overall both straight up and against the spread.

The Clippers are stating to get hot again with wins in five straight games after a solid 109-94 road win at Oklahoma City. Leonard had 25 points and eight boards and George continues to struggle a bit while being held to 16 points. If you haven’t heard of Montrezl Harrell (18.7 points, 7.1 rebounds), then just watch a Clippers game. He is one of the best reserves in the NBA and a Sixth Man of the Year candidate for sure. Harrell contributed 16 points in 20 minutes before he hurt his ankle. It doesn’t appear to be serious, but the team could opt to rest him as a precaution. Tuesday’s victory was Doc Rivers’ 936th as a head coach, giving him sole possession of 12th all-time. Los Angeles, who are 5.5 games behind the Lakers, will host them on Sunday.

The Rockets had won six in a row before falling surprisingly 125-123 at the New York Knicks on Monday. Westbrook missed a short jumper at the buzzer that would have extended the game. Westbrook scored 24 points and has at least 20 points in a career-high 31 straight contests. It was Houston’s first loss at Madison Square Garden since the 2008-09 campaign. The Rockets small lineup was outrebounded 65-34 on Monday and the Knicks bettered Houston in the paint as well, 64-36. Houston will play at the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.

I like the home team whenever these teams play and Houston is already 3-0 ATS this season against the Clippers. I’ll stick with that trend.

Check out who Bobby Babowski has on his Free NBA Picks page for Thursday. He is 69-54-3 on the season after a 10-3 run!

Pick: Rockets -1

Clippers are 0-4 ATS in the last 4 meetings.
Over is 5-1 in the last 6 meetings.