In the middle of a month where they play 20 games in 31 days, the Clippers barely manage to catch and beat a depleted Houston Rocket team despite a huge game from Courtney Lee with 25 points. Chris Paul scored 12 of the Clipper's last 14 points and the Clips record improves to 25 and 18. A much needed win for the LA team. The NBA.com box es aqui.
Two highly-vaunted and anxiously anticapted Clipper shooting guards finally arrived at Staples Center this afternoon...unfortunately both were wearing suits instead of the Clipper uniforms. Chauncey Billups was smiling, relaxed, with a prime seat on the Clipper bench, Nick Young, who may not be available until Tuesday (all players in the recent three-team trade must pass physicals before any are available) didn't have quite as good a seat but seemed happy to be back in LA, his hometown.
Houston Rockets, who had won three of their last four and are 24-20 (to the Clips 24-18) came in with a depleted roster due to injuries and players shipped out at the trade deadline, fielding a team of only nine. Among the missing were three starters (Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, and Chandler Parsons). The Clippers desperately needed the win in order to stay ahead in a tightly packed playoff race after having played unevenly since Billups went down with a knee injury. Of course, the Rockets are very much in the playoff race as well and didn't figure to be laying down for the Western Conference rival.
It's hard to figure out how the hell the Clips got to this place. The Clips came out hard this season, won a bunch of games, suffered an injury that seemed only mildly significant, but now find themselves fighting for their playoff lives having lost 4 out of 5 at home. It doesn't figure, right? The starting lineup has two all-stars, with another three (four, if you count the injured Billups) on the bench. The Clippers have size, veterans, scorers, shooters, and one of the best point guards in the game. What they're missing is a cohesive defensive plan (or are they missing the brains to implement that plan?). This afternoon's game didn't do much to answer any of these questions.
Clips came out hard grabbing a quick 15 to 8 lead. But Houston, tough, well-coached, resilient, led by hot shooting Chase Budinger and Courtney Lee, and went on a 13-0 run and led 23-19 at the end of the first.
After the terrible Phoenix loss Thursday night and a long Clipper team meeting, one would hope (expect?) the Clippers to come out with renewed defensive energy. But no, the team were behind by 14 points by the middle of the 2nd quarter. Fortunately Randy Foye and Mo Williams got hot and the Clips were down by only eight at the half 47-39. A disappointing start to say the least.
The Clips came back in the third quarter. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Caron Butler all seem to wake up. The Clips finally tied the game with 6 minutes remaining in the third. But the Rockets refused to give up the lead... until the last few seconds of the period, when Chris Paul found Mo Williams at the three point line. Finally the Clips found themselves with the lead at the end of the third, 69-66. Maybe this was gonna work out okay for the Clips.
But the Rockets, who should have been fading, would not give in. The fourth is a back and forth battle and the Clips find themselves down by six with 2:30 remaining. The problem was almost entirely defensive. The Clips could simply not get defensive stops.
But then Chris Paul takes over, scoring ten points in a row (two jumpers in the lane, a layup and four from the line) and with 25 seconds remaining the Clips are up by two with 25 seconds on the game clock. Paul has ten points in a row.
On the defensive end, Paul forces a turnover (fouling Scola?) and Caron Butler is fouled driving to the basket. He makes both and the Clips are up by four with 13.6 on the clock.
It's never easy though and Blake Griffin fouls out with 4.9 seconds left when he holds Patterson under the basket. Patterson makes the both (to the wonderment of Mike and Ralph, who feel Patterson should miss and try and get the rebound and go for a tie). When the Rockets foul Paul, he coolly makes both and finally, the game really IS over. Chris Paul has twelve of the Clips last 14 points.
- Luis Scola versus Blake Griffin. The athlete versus the Artist. Scola's got crazy offensive skills, more moves than a cat. (If only Scola would do something about his personal appearance.) Griffin's a gazelle, fast and agile. Both are solid, built like your grand-dad's Buick. This was the marquee matchup of the game. They banged hard, neither was a huge factor, Griffin finished with 18, Scola with 10.
- A revitalized DeAndre Jordan? He came out looking aggressive, fresh, and had the kind of line we like to see: 29 minutes, 11 rebounds, and a +23(!)
- Courtney Lee. A guy a lot of Clipper fans would have liked to see the Clippers pick up. An excellent defender, Lee, a starter for the Rockets tonight, played determined, focused, indefatigable defense and also scored 25. He's good.
- The backup point guard for the Rockets today? One, Courtney Fortson, who was in camp for the Clippers this year and did spot duty when Chris Paul was out earlier this year. Not a factor. Played only about a minute.
- Randy Foye, who is the Clipper-most-likely-to-lose-minutes-to-Nick-Young, was the most reliable Clipper (other than Paul) on the floor tonight. 15 points, plus15.
- Blake Griffin get no calls. I thought he got mugged half a dozen times in the paint. In the second quarter he caught Scola on what looked like an obvious offensive foul. The call? Blocking foul on Griffin. In the third, Samuel Dalembert went over his back for a rebound. The call? Out of bounds on Griffin. Griffin went to the line 6 times and made four. Those numbers could easily have been double.
- Chris Paul gets no calls. Paul is a fireplug, small but thick and strong. Houston players were banging off him like pinballs. He went to the line 8 times and was perfecto (he scored 23). I don't get it. This was a Clippers home game. Did the refs think they were in Houston?
- Bobby Simmons. He only play 17 minutes and did almost nothing that shows up in a boxscore (until he hit a critical three in the fourth) but he played all-out defense and boxed out for rebounds like a monster. I can't imagine the Clippers cutting this guy.
- Chauncey Billups. Is there anything more reassuring than seeing this guy one the sideline, whispering into Chris Paul's ear at critical moments. He's the anti-Vinny.
- Missing point guards. Eric Bledsoe logged 1:31, no points, 2 TO's. No Derek Fisher. He apparently hasn't reported. Will he? Rockets could have used him.
- The starters played a lot of minutes. The March schedule is brutal and the Clips have another game tomorrow. It would have been nice if the Clippers could have taken advantage of the Rocket's depleted cast. Paul played 38 minutes, Griffin played 30, Randy Foye played 36. Why can't Nick Young play tomorrow? Are you SURE?
Tomorrow, the Detroit Pistons show up at 12:30. See you then.