PREVIEW: Rockets at Clippers- Jan. 15

Jan 10, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reaches for a rebound in the first half against the Dallas Mavericks at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Rockets at Clippers- Jan. 15

The Rockets will try to avoid a 10th straight loss in the third game of a four-game swing through California when they take on the Los Angeles Clippers for the final time this season. Seven of the Rockets’ nine losses on this skid have been by double digits, and only one came by five points or fewer.

Eye on the Clippers

Record: 22-18 (T-6th in Western Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 109.9 (28th)

Defensive rating (rank): 111.1 (8th)

The Clippers enter Sunday’s game having lost seven of eight, and a big reason for their up-and-down season has been the unavailability of their key players. That will continue on Sunday as the Clippers have already ruled out Paul George and Luke Kennard, while John Wall and Marcus Morris Sr. are doubtful. George is averaging 23.7 points per game on 45% shooting, but Sunday will be the 15th game he’s missed. Kennard will miss his 16th game, while Wall would miss his 11th. Kawhi Leonard, who is expected to play on Sunday, has only played in 20 games this season as he returns from a torn ACL that cost him all of last season.

Matchup to watch: Eric Gordon vs. Kawhi Leonard

Leonard will play in a fourth straight game for the first time since returning from the torn ACL he suffered during the 2021 postseason. He’s averaging 18.5 points while averaging a shade under 30 minutes, but he appears to be rounding into form by averaging 28.7 points over his last three games on 50.9% shooting while playing 37.5 minutes. The Clippers are likely to be without three of their top five scorers on Sunday, so they’ll need Leonard to carry the load against the Rockets, and Gordon is the Rocket best suited to slow him down and be physical with him.

What I’m watching for

Kevin Porter Jr. is listed as doubtful to play Sunday due to the foot contusion that kept him out of Friday’s game in Sacramento, likely leaving the Rockets extremely short-handed for this game. Sunday morning, the league suspended Jalen Green and Jae’Sean Tate for this contest because they left the bench area during Friday’s fourth-quarter fracas that saw four players ejected, including Garrison Mathews and Tari Eason. The Rockets recalled TyTy Washington from their G League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley on Saturday to fill out their rotation Sunday, but it will be very difficult to simply put together five-man units now that the league has dropped the hammer on both Green and Tate and Porter probably unable to play.

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