Rockets-Clippers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 16, 2012
After cruising through the first two months of the season, the Los Angeles Clippers seem to have lost some of their luster. The Houston Rockets, in contrast, appear to be headed in the right direction - especially with the addition of two key veterans. Hoping to avoid a fourth loss in five games, Los Angeles looks to get back on track with a season series sweep of the visiting Rockets on Saturday. The Clippers (24-18) started 19-9 but have since fallen back to earth, dropping nine of 14 and into the middle of the pack in the Western Conference playoff race. Los Angeles hasn't looked anything like a postseason contender over the last week, during which it's been limited to a dismal 90.3 points per game in losing three of four. The Clippers' offensive woes continued in Thursday's 91-87 loss to short-handed Phoenix. After taking an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter, Los Angeles scored a season-low 12 points over the final 12 minutes, failing to keep up with a Suns team playing without Steve Nash and Grant Hill. "Coach came in and we talked about some things before we got in the showers," said Blake Griffin after a team-only meeting in the locker room that lasted over an hour . "It was very productive. We talked about our sense of urgency, our execution down the stretch and the way we approach games. "When you get into a setting like that, you talk about things. I mean, it wasn't about pointing a finger at somebody. But if there's a problem and no one ever talks about it, it's not going to get better. So guys talked. And the more you talk, the more you figure things out ... We've got a good team and we've got to do better." The Clippers should receive an offensive boost from Nick Young, who was acquired from Washington in Thursday's three-way deal with Denver. Young was averaging 16.6 points with the Wizards but isn't expected to be available until Tuesday. The Rockets (24-20) were also busy prior to the trade deadline, bringing in veterans Marcus Camby from Portland and five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher from the Lakers. The 6-foot-11 Camby provides a much-needed interior defensive presence while Fisher could see valuable minutes with starting point guard Kyle Lowry sidelined for at least another two weeks with a bacterial infection. It's unknown if Camby or Fisher will be available Saturday. Goran Dragic has shined with Lowry out, averaging 17.3 points and 8.3 assists while starting each of the last four games. The Rockets improved to 3-1 over that stretch with Wednesday's 107-87 win over Charlotte. "(Starting) is much easier now," said Dragic, who had 14 points and 10 assists versus the Bobcats. "Maybe the first couple games you're a little bit nervous about how you're going to lead the team and everything but now you can see that you can do that stuff. Our players are great and playing well and hopefully we're going to keep winning." The Rockets are averaging 107.5 points with Dragic running the show - well above their season mark of 98.1. "We're just playing so unselfish," rookie Chandler Parsons said. "We're moving the ball and we're having fun ... we're having fun out there and it's been great." Keeping things going Saturday, however, could prove difficult. Houston allowed the Clippers to shoot 57.3 percent from the floor in a 117-89 rout during its Jan. 4 visit to Staples Center. Los Angeles also handed the Rockets a 105-103 overtime defeat in Houston on March 4. Kevin Martin, who scored 25 points in that game, has missed the last two with a shoulder injury and could sit again. Courtney Lee is also uncertain to play after dislocating his left middle finger Wednesday.
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