Rockets-Clippers Preview

While the Los Angeles Clippers were at one point rumored to be a

possible destination for Dwight Howard, he ultimately decided to

join forces with James Harden and the Houston Rockets.

So far, so good.

Set to return to Staples Center for the first time since leaving

the Lakers, Howard tries to lead the unbeaten Rockets to their best

start in 17 seasons Monday night against the Clippers.

It hasn’t taken long for Howard to make his presence felt with

Houston (3-0), which has surrendered 93.7 points per game thus far,

significantly better than last season’s mark of 102.5.

Howard is averaging 15.0 points, 17.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks

for the Rockets, who are limiting opponents to 38.7 percent

shooting. The All-Star center averaged 19.3 points on 60.0 percent

shooting and 3.0 blocks in four losses against the Clippers last

season while with the Lakers.

“He’s definitely moving around a lot better than he was last

year,” Clippers center DeAndre Jordan told the team’s official

website. “I feel like he slimmed down a lot. I was watching a

couple of their games and you can just tell that last year was

still a little stiff and his back was giving him some problems.

Hopefully, he’ll be back to the 2010-2011 Dwight and that will be

better for the league.”

After beating Charlotte and Dallas, the Rockets kicked off a

three-game road swing with Saturday’s 104-93 win over Utah.

Chandler Parsons had 24 points, 12 rebounds and six assists while

Harden scored 23 as Houston stormed back after trailing by as many

as 19.

Jeremy Lin added 20 points and Howard totaled 15 to go along

with nine boards.

“We put ourselves to the test. Being down 16 at halftime, we

might have just caved in and gave up last year but this year we

fought back. That’s the difference,” Harden said.

The Rockets haven’t won their first four games since opening 6-0

in 1996-97. They had dropped five straight to the Clippers (2-1)

before winning 98-81 on March 30.

Los Angeles has posted back-to-back wins since Tuesday’s

season-opening loss to the Lakers, beating Golden State 126-115 on

Thursday and Sacramento 110-101 on Friday.

“The three games we’ve had all felt like playoff games with the

crowds and just how the intensity is and the atmosphere,” said

Jordan, averaging 11.3 points and 12.0 boards. “It’s been great. We

can only build from this.”

Chris Paul led the way with 26 points and 10 assists against the

Kings, his third double-double in as many games. The superstar

point guard is averaging 27.7 points and 12.0 assists.

“I came out a little slow and tried to let the game develop, but

I can’t be that way. I have to be more aggressive,” he said. ”I’m

one of those people that let my teammates get me going, and I need

that. (Coach) Doc (Rivers) talks to me about it but it’s my

teammates that help me.”

Blake Griffin added 20 points, 17 rebounds and six assists and

Jamal Crawford scored 18 off the bench.

While the Clippers are clicking offensively, they have

surrendered 110.7 points per game, an area they know needs

improvement going forward.

“The past couple of games we’ve played our defense and everybody

in here knows what that means and I think it’s working,” Paul said.

“We’ve still got a ways to go but we’re building.”

These teams meet again Saturday in Houston.