Rockets Favored at LA Clippers

The Houston Rockets clinched a playoff spot with their latest win, but their All-Star center knows his game is not where it needs to be for the team to make a deep run in the postseason.

The Rockets hope to get an improved effort from Yao Ming when they visit the surging Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

Houston (45-26) has the fifth-best record in the Western Conference, and has won nine of 11 since Yao returned from the leg injury that sidelined him for 32 games.

Oddsmakers have made Houston -2 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 190.5 total points (View NBA Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 93% of bets for this game have been placed on Houston-2

(View NBA Bet Percentages).

The Rockets bounced back from a 106-94 loss to New Orleans on Sunday with a 106-87 victory over Milwaukee on Monday, but Van Gundy was not pleased with his center's performance in either contest.

After finishing with 16 points on 7-of-22 shooting against the Hornets, Yao scored 22 points against the Bucks, but missed 13 of 22 shots and committed five turnovers.

"I'm not concerned with him making or missing,'' Van Gundy said. "I'm concerned with what precedes the making and the missing.

"There's fundamental things that he knows, that he's capable of doing consistently and, right now, habitually he's not doing those things."

Van Gundy's biggest concern with Yao has been his defense, as he was out of position several times when the Bucks ran pick-and-roll plays.

"I was just not so good in this game,'' Yao said.

"My pick-and-roll defense, my shooting field goals, my rebounding, I don't feel very good (about this). I'm not in the playoff level yet."

Yao, averaging 24.5 points and 9.3 rebounds, had one of his best games of the season against the Clippers (34-36) on Dec. 17.

The 7-foot-6 center had 32 points and 10 boards in the Rockets' 108-103 win, but he suffered the right leg fracture that caused him to miss 2 1/2 months in the first quarter of a 98-93 loss to the Clippers six days later.

Houston also beat Los Angeles 109-105 on March 14, and has won 13 of the last 16 in the series.

Clippers power forward Elton Brand scored a season-high 37 points in the most recent defeat to the Rockets, and is averaging 24.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in the three meetings this season.

Brand had 18 points and 14 boards in Saturday's 111-105 victory over Washington, Los Angeles' fourth straight win.

The Clippers have won five of six following a five-game skid, and will be looking to win five in a row for the first time since Nov. 2-12. They're averaging 105.5 points on 50.0 percent shooting during their winning streak after averaging 89.9 points in their previous seven games.

"We're playing with a lot of poise and a lot of resolve and we are very confident right now," Brand said. "We're definitely jelling as a team, getting better each game. We can feel it out there and we're excited to play.''

Los Angeles is in eighth place in the West, 1 1/2 games behind seventh-place Denver and two games ahead of ninth-place Golden State. The Clippers made the playoffs last season for the first time since 1996-97, and have not made the postseason in consecutive seasons since 1991-92 and '92-93.

Corey Maggette scored nine of his season-high 29 points in the final 77 seconds against the Wizards. He's averaging 23.0 points - 6.9 above his season average - on 61.2 percent shooting in his last five games.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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