The Game of the Night features two Western Conference playoff teams, both with championship aspirations. However, we have some undercard games to talk about.
Orlando vs. Philadelphia touts two of the best rookies from the 2013 class in Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams. The last time these two teams faced each other, both Oladipo and Carter-Williams exploded for triple-doubles in a double overtime thriller, and I imagine the individual matchup will be just explosive this time around. Golden State at Chicago is interesting because of Chicago’s wonderful defense against Golden State’s offense. While it might not be the game to watch, I suggest keeping an eye on that game. The last game of note is Brooklyn at Portland. The Blazers are in the midst of a slump, going .500 to start February. The Nets have made 2014 count, going 10-3 in January and 6-4 in February, climbing back into the playoffs in the East. Deron Williams vs. Damian Lillard could be fun, so I suggest keeping your eye on that game as well.
The Game of the Night, however, goes to the Houston Rockets against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Rockets are 38-18, sitting in the third spot in the West, but the Clippers sit right behind them at 39-20 in the 4th spot. With Portland right behind them at 38-18, this is a pretty important game for both teams. Both teams sit the positive in point differential, and both teams sit in the top five in terms of offensive efficiency.
The Rockets are a simple team with two sides. The first is the Jeremy Lin-ran team. Lin is an excellent attacking guard, and the backcourt duo of Lin and James Harden creates an unstoppable wave of slashing, pick-and-roll action. The lineup of Lin, Harden, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, and Dwight Howard owns a net rating of 5.6, per NBA.com, and a ton of that has to do with the trio of Lin, Harden, and Parsons spacing the floor, Dwight Howard working with them in the pick-and-roll, and Jones being a basketball hodgepodge, filling multiple roles on the floor when called upon.
The other side is the Patrick Beverley side. Beverley doesn’t offer the same shooting as Lin does, nor is he as great of a “point guard” as Lin at times, but he does so much more on the defensive side of the ball that he compliments Harden very well. Beverley can cover for some of Harden’s lackadaisical techniques on the defensive end, and he doesn’t turn the ball over on the offensive end. The lineup of Beverley, Harden, Parsons, Jones, and Harden has a net rating of 9.0, and it’s a more pick-and-roll based offense than the Lin-led lineup, but even more effective, as it gets Dwight a bit more in the action as oppose to the Lin lineup.
On the Los Angeles Clippers, the Clippers are an excellent team. Enough said. They have four respectable lineups with a net rating over 7.0, including a Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan lineup with a 18.2 rating, the Clippers will enter the playoffs as both an interesting and exciting team, thanks to with their shooting, size (including Glen “Big Baby” Davis), and leadership at both point guard and head coach. Between Los Angeles and Houston, I would pick Los Angeles as the team more likely to reach the finals.
Why? Because I believe Doc Rivers the right roster to win in the playoffs. The Glen Davis addition gives them a third big man, the trio of Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, and J.J. Redick gives them maximum spacing and shooting, and Blake Griffin’s recent play could prove to be a turning tide in Los Angeles’ playoff woes. Blake has always been somewhat underrated by his perception as a dunker, but with Chris Paul on the shelf for an extended period, Griffin jumped into the main stage as more than just a dunker. He’s an excellent passer, a great rebounder, and he’s extended his range to three-point range, currently shooting 59% on shots 16 feet and out from the left side of the floor. His development gives the Clippers an extra gear, and could push them into the championship contention.
The Call: Clippers 114, Rockets 108. The Clippers have the ability to spread Houston’s defense out and hit some threes, and ultimately, I see Blake Griffin having a huge game on the offensive side of the floor. Chris Paul will lead them to victory with some late game heroics, and the Clippers move into the third spot in the Western Conference.
National TV: ESPN
Regional TV: CSN Houston (Rockets) | FSW2 (Clippers) | League Pass
Time: 10:30 pm EST