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- After suffering setbacks in Orlando and Miami, the Clippers will attempt to avoid an 0-3 road trip when Houston welcomes them to Toyota Center on Saturday. Coach Doc Rivers downplayed the idea that his club’s rocky start to the season is part of the inconsistency that comes with a team that is searching for an identity. “I don’t think anyone has an identity except the teams who have been together [for years],” Rivers said. “I can’t forge an identity on anybody. I think that all this plays out, and you figure out what they are. … As long as every player knows what they are and what they’re supposed to do, that’s the identity I want.”
- The Rockets (4-2) have been plagued by slow starts this season, a trend that has put them behind after the first quarter in five of six games. Houston looked especially lethargic at the beginning of Monday’s 138-117 loss at Los Angeles (3-3), allowing the Clippers to register a franchise-record 78 points in the first half. For coach Kevin McHale, the underlying issues behind his team’s poor habit of digging early deficits are more mental than physical. “It just seems to be a lack of urgency,” McHale said. “We’re out there just kind of warming into the game and flowing into the game. Our smalls aren’t attacking. They’re not aggressive. Our bigs aren’t backing the back of our defense with protection.”
- L.A. forward Matt Barnes will miss his third consecutive game with a bruised right thigh. Jared Dudley, who is battling tendinitis in his right knee, will be in the Clippers’ starting lineup. Houston’s James Harden (bruised left foot) and Jeremy Lin (sore right elbow) are also banged up, but they will play through their minor injuries. “[Dudley] is good to go, but he’s just not healthy to where we’d like him to be,” Rivers said. “There’s no way around it for him. He wants to play. He should play.”
- Two of the NBA’s worst free-throw shooters could be tested in the fourth quarter should this game remain close. Houston’s Dwight Howard has converted on only 50.0 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe so far this season and 57.6 percent for his career. Clippers forward DeAndre Jordan, a 42.6-percent foul shooter for his career, has shot at a 47.2 percent clip from the line over the first six games.
– Matt Miller