A brand of basketball built around depth, defense and arguably the best point guard in the game has the Los Angeles Clippers third place in the Western Conference standings. Winning based on a style isn't so much what Vinny Del Negro's team is about. Rather, the Clippers are comfortable winning any way, any how.
It's very unlike the Houston Rockets (29-25), who visit Staples Center on Wednesday as the Clippers return from their eight-game Grammy road trip. Kevin McHale's team lives and dies by playing one way. The NBA's highest scoring team at 106.3 points per game, the Rockets usually score in bunches, but whether they can stop good teams from scoring remains to be seen.
The Clippers (37-17) can play with anyone because of an offensive rating of 109 points per 100 possessions and a defense that gives up a fifth-best 102 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.com. That chameleon-esque style helped the Clippers win by playing at Houston's speed in the teams' first meeting that ended in a 117-109 Los Angeles win.
James Harden a game-time decision
Houston guard James Harden sprained his ankle and is listed as a game-time decision on Wednesday. While he was previously reported to be out, Harden attended a meeting with the Rockets in the morning, received treatments, and was still holding out hope that he could give it a go, reports Houston Chronicle reporter Jonathan Feigen.
Losing Harden's 26.1 points per game is only part of the issue, as Houston will also lose a drive-and-kick playmaking presence that is responsible for a good amount of perimeter shots. Harden's potential absence could make it tough for Houston to pull it out.
A numbers game
The Clippers will put up a stand with efficiency. In the middle of the NBA as far as pace is concerned, they sometimes use depth to play sound defense and wear on teams, but other times Los Angeles speeds it up to score in numerous ways.
Chris Paul is the face of the efficiency. He will play in his fourth game since returning from a knee injury, and in the latter two games the point guard has been spectacular. Against the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers, he's shooting 67.9 percent from the floor on 28 shots. He put in seven and 11 assists in those two games, respectively, and recorded nine combined steals in the last two outings as well.
Opposing Los Angeles is a Houston team that is more about getting the most opportunities. The fastest-paced team in the NBA has the league's eight-best point differential with the theory of more is better. The most prolific team in three-point attempts shot 37 against the Clippers in the teams' only previous meeting this season, but accuracy and poor defense gave Los Angeles the advantage.
The Rockets hit 35 percent of those attempt and the Clippers went 11-of-19 (58 percent) to make up the difference.
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Odds: The Clippers opened as 10-point favorites.