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Houston 102 - Clippers 85 - Back to Normal, Terrible in the Fourth

A game after playing probably the best fourth quarter in franchise history, the Clippers reverted to form and were unwatchable in the final quarter.  Houston doubled them up in the quarter, 26 to 13, and the Clippers went almost 7 minutes without scoring a point at the end.  A meaningless Baron Davis three at the end was their only basket in the final 6:50. The Rockets won going away, 102-85.

I wish I knew how the Rockets are doing it.  Conventional NBA wisdom says that you have to have a go to scorer - they don't.  Conventional wisdom says you have to have size and length - they don't.  And just when you think you understand - "oh, it's all about Aaron Brooks breaking down defenses with the dribble" - they beat you with Brooks on the bench.  Certainly they play good defense - but in this game, I don't know whether to credit their defense, or just admit that the Clippers were terrible on offense.

Chris Kaman, who has been mired in a terrible slump save for one game in Detroit last Friday, was 4 for 7 with three rebounds in the first quarter.  He finished the game 5 for 16 with 5 rebounds.  So he was 1 for 9 with 2 rebounds over the final three periods.  Without Eric Gordon, who missed the game with a sore hamstring, and with no one else really stepping up, the Clippers just didn't look sharp on offense.

I mentioned in the preview that the Rockets take a lot of threes, and when they win they get a lot of points from beyond the arc.  Well, they were 12 for 23 in this one - while the Clippers went 1 for 14.  That alone would have been enough for the Rockets to win the game.  Still, the Clippers gave them so much more.

I'm tired and depressed, about the game and about the fact that Blake Griffin is going to be out until the New Year.  So I'm going to keep this short and go to bed. 

But there's one more thing I want to point out.

When the Rockets opened the third quarter with Shane Battier defending Baron, and the 5'11" Aaron Brooks defending the 6'7" Rasual Butler, the Clippers went to that matchup every trip on offense.  It's an obvious strategy, and you can certainly see why they would do it.  There's one problem - it rarely works.

We've seen the Clippers post up Quinton Ross on Steve Nash.  We've seen them post Ross against Earl Boykins.  If a team has a major liability on defense, they will look for the player where they can hide that defender.  When the Clippers used to post Ross trip after trip, it had the net effect of taking the team completely out of any rhythm.  And it's not as if Ross was converting a high percentage.  So the strategy is doubly effective for the opponent - they get stops AND they get the Clippers out of sync.

Same thing happened in this game.  Butler has obviously been a disappointment so far this season, and he has been particularly bad lately.  But he has NEVER been a good post up player.  Yes, Butler made a couple of hoops against Brooks - but as the Clippers were milking this matchup, Houston was building a 9 point lead in what had been a tie game.  More importantly, the players who actually NEEDED to be taking shots like Kaman and Baron and Thornton were completely ignored and lost the feel for the game.

You can't suddenly go to a player in the post every trip, if that player isn't a good post player.  Having a major height advantage is great - but if you're not a post player, you're not a post player, and it doesn't matter how tall you are or how tall the defender is.