Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Clippers Pick & Prediction MARCH 6th 2024

The Rockets were seeking to get additional mileage out of their gritty performance against the Phoenix Suns, a physical affair Saturday that not only resulted in a rare Houston road victory but also showcased what can be accomplished when the team remains in the fight.

The Rockets maintained that level of aggression in the first half of a home back-to-back on Tuesday, outlasting the San Antonio Spurs 114-101 by stifling Spurs rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama.

With Dillon Brooks doing most of the heavy lifting despite an 10-inch height disadvantage, the Rockets limited Wembanyama to 10 points on 10 shot attempts from the field, including a scoreless second half.

Houston, which will host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, then rode Alperen Sengun to victory on the offensive end. Sengun recorded career highs in points (45) and steals (five) to go with a game-high 16 rebounds.

“(Sengun) and a bunch of others guarding exceptionally well in the second half, specifically Dillon on Wembanyama to hold him scoreless in the second half,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “You don’t always get a lot of credit when you’re not scoring, but what he did for the game, the way he impacted it, was great.”

The Rockets exacted a physical toll from the start, pushing back against Wembanyama despite his three first-half blocks. With Brooks challenging Wembanyama defensively and Sengun attacking him offensively, the Rockets set an early tone and did not deviate despite the Spurs’ frequent rallies.

Ultimately, Houston had its way. The Rockets forced 18 turnovers, including recording 15 steals, and scored 28 points off those turnovers. Despite the aggressive stance, the Rockets committed only 15 fouls and sent the Spurs to the free-throw line a mere 16 times.

“We were playing physical, aggressive defense without fouling,” Udoka said. “And turnovers for them turned into fast-break points for us. A perfect formula.”

The Clippers, once the hottest team in the Western Conference, appear to have misplaced their formula for success since the All-Star break. With their 113-106 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, the Clippers fell to 3-4 since the season resumed, with two of those wins coming against teams — the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies — out of the playoff picture.

The Clippers won 19 of 24 games entering the break and positioned themselves as a legitimate contender for the top seed in the West with that sustained run of excellence. But injuries have started to take their toll, with the latest being the loss of reserve guard Russell Westbrook to a broken hand.

In Milwaukee, the Clippers appeared to have an advantage with Bucks All-NBA forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (Achilles) sidelined. Instead, the Clippers surrendered a 40-point fourth quarter and a double-digit lead simultaneously, and their recent inconsistency has opened the door for questions regarding their ability to remain in position to secure home-court advantage when the playoffs finally arrive. The loss to the Bucks revealed the Clippers’ vulnerability.

“They’re all bad losses, however you look at it,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Coming off a back-to-back, whether Giannis played or not, we knew it was going to be a tough game.”

–Field Level Media

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