Rockets aim to tame playoff-hungry Clippers
(Sports Network) – The playoff-bound Houston Rockets play the first of a short
two-game road trip when they visit the surging Los Angeles Clippers tonight at
the Staples Center.
The Rockets are No. 5 in the Western Conference playoff race, while the
Clippers are the eighth seed and have a two-game lead over the Warriors and
Hornets for the final postseason spot.
On Monday, All-Stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady scored 22 points apiece, as
the Rockets earned a 106-87 win over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Toyota
Juwan Howard added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who have won six
of their last seven games overall and qualified the postseason for the first
time since the 2004-2005 season. Houston lost forward Chuck Hayes to a
shoulder injury early on, and he did not return.
Hayes, who is averaging 5.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in 67 games this season,
is doubtful for tonight’s contest, while veteran center Dikembe Mutombo, who
has missed two straight games, is questionable with a sore left knee.
Houston is a respectable 19-16 on the road this season. The Rockets will visit
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Friday at the Staples Center.
The Clippers, who wrap up a three-game homestand, try to extend their winning
streak to five games this evening. On Saturday, Corey Maggette scored a
season-high 29 points and the Clippers withstood a late rally to top the
Washington Wizards, 111-105, at the Staples Center.
Elton Brand finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds, while Chris Kaman had 17
points and nine boards in the win for the Clippers, who have won four
straight. Tim Thomas scored 13, and Cuttino Mobley had 12 points and eight
boards in the victory.
On the injury front for the Clippers, guard Sam Cassell (back spasms) is
doubtful. Cassell, who is averaging 13.1 points and 5.1 assists in 51 games,
has missed two straight contests.
The Clippers are 23-12 as the host this season. They will visit Sacramento on
Friday at ARCO Arena and Portland on Saturday at the Rose Garden.
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the squads. The
Rockets won two of the three previous contests.
Houston has won two straight and six of its last seven at the Clippers. The
Rockets have won four of the last six contests overall in the series.