The game Friday night was supposed to a matchup between the new-look Clippers and former teammate Chris Paul, who requested a trade to the Houston Rockets last summer because he no longer wanted to be a part of the team’s future.
But that matchup will not happen because Paul is out after straining his left adductor during Wednesday night in the loss to the Lakers.
So now it becomes a battle of the benches when the Clippers meet the still-dangerous Rockets with early MVP candidate James Harden.
“They are still a great team,” Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said. “We can’t take those guys lightly at all. We’ve got to come out and compete. It’s going to be a tough game.”
Besides Paul being out for the Rockets, they won’t have forward Luc Mbah a Moute (dislocated right shoulder). He joined the Rockets as a free agent after spending the last two seasons with the Clippers. The Rockets also have listed center Clint Capela as doubtful with a bruised left heel.
But the Rockets have Harden, who is leading the NBA in scoring, averaging 31.9 points per game and had 51 against the Lakers on Wednesday.
Not only that, but the Rockets are second in the NBA in scoring, averaging 115.3 points per game.
“They’re just tough,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
Harrell, Reed keep play simple
When the Clippers play backup big men Montrezl Harrell and Willie Reed together, they just keep it simple.
They combined for 19 points and 10 rebounds against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.
“Obviously the spacing is not that great,” Rivers said. “But we have size. So what we decided to do, especially due to all the injuries, we can go low post and we just play a low-post game. No one knows how to do that anymore, including us. We’re learning.
“We needed something from our bench, some kind of scoring, something for them to lean on with all these guys are out. So, when those two come in, every play is the same play. It’s a ‘floppy to a drop,’ to one of those two guys and they go to work or pass it out. It’s simple basketball, but I think it has helped the young guys because it’s less thinking involved.”
When: 5 p.m. PST, Friday
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket, ESPN; Radio: 570, 1330.
Update: Since Dec. 11, the Clippers have led the NBA in defensive rating, allowing 95.8 points per 100 possessions. They are also ranked second in the league in points allowed (96.7) over that span. The Rockets attempt (43.2) and make (16.0) the most three-pointers in the league. Houston is making 37% of its three-pointers.