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Clippers Overcome Early Struggles to Top Rockets, 107-94

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Well... that was quite an emotional roller coaster.

I'm gonna spend about one paragraph on the first half and then pretend like it never happened for the rest of time.

The Clippers sucked.  I mean, the starters were decent in their first stint, taking a 22-17 lead in the first 8 minutes or so.  Then from the time Reggie Bullock checked in with about 4 minutes left in the quarter to the end of his 8 minute stint that stretched into the second, he and his fellow bench players managed to go -18.  That's devastating to a team.  How can you afford to rest your starters if your bench is going to turn a 5 point lead into a 13 point deficit in 8 minutes?  Not to mention that Jamal Crawford was also pathetic offensively and defensively in the first half.  Normally I time my food runs for the commercials, but during that stretch I waited until the break was over to go out to the kitchen.  I didn't want to see the bloodshed.  And that's all that needs to be said about that.

But all of a sudden in the second half, just when things were looking bleak with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul both getting their fourth fouls, the Clippers went on a run.  I'm pretty sure it was 18-0 before some subs came in and started hemorrhaging points again.  Even then, however, the Clippers were able to score to avoid yielding the lead back to the Rockets.

The Clippers were able to pull away late in the fourth, eventually winning by 13, 107-94.

  • Chris Paul: The Clippers' leader had a lackluster first half, but ended up with 14 points and 13 assists.  He got mad at the pesky defense of Patrick Beverly in the second half, and that anger got Paul going, who got the rest of the team going.  13 assists is another double digit mark.  Paul has a point-assist double-double in all of the Clippers' 7 games this season.
  • Blake Griffin: Monster.  Blake Griffin is an absolute monster.  I mean, he had 22 points and 7 rebounds.  That's not that great of a game by his standards, but man, the way he got those points was great to watch.  In the fourth quarter, Blake was remarkable both on offense and defense.  Remember how impressed we were with his defense against LeBron James late in the game on Thursday?  He was impressive tonight when he was guarding Dwight Howard near the end of the game as well, taking a charge as Howard over-aggressively backed down in the post.  He also had 7 hard fought points on offense, scoring impressively in the post.
  • DeAndre Jordan: DJ's almost been forgotten this year.  We all know he's been great, but it sort of feels like Clippers fans are already taking him for granted and focusing on the other negatives on the team.  Jordan was superb again tonight against Dwight Howard, totaling 12 points, 18 rebounds (7 offensive), 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals.  Jordan has 4 double doubles and 5 games with double digit rebounds so far this season.  It's really gratifying to see him put it together here in his 5th season.  Patience may have finally paid off.
  • J.J. Redick: What's scary is he'll only get better.  So far, J.J. (my new favorite Clipper) has shot 35% from deep, well below his career average of 39%.  In fact, he's missed quite a few open looks.  I expect that the mean will win out, as it almost always does, making him even more efficient and deadly when he's on the court.  The way that he moves without the ball is something that I've never seen from a Clipper player before and it's just a lot of fun to watch.  He had 22 points, 5 boards, 4 steals, and 2 assists in the win tonight.
  • Jared Dudley: Dudley's quietly been the glue guy for the Clippers recently.  He doesn't make a lot of noise, but he's shooting 39% from deep and averaging a little over 8 points a game in that 5th option role.  He was solid tonight, shooting 4-6 from the field and making his only three to score 9 points.  Dudley also saw a lot of minutes at PF with Doc Rivers electing to go small in the second half and not play any big men besides Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
  • Jamal Crawford: Talk about a tale of two halves.  Throughout the game, Jamal was Jamal.  The difference is, in the first half, he was everything that is bad about Jamal, and in the second half, he was mostly what is good about Jamal.  The first half saw fadeaway contested jumpers, matador defense, and poor, selfish decision making.  The second half saw spot up threes at critical moments.  The main difference is that in the second half he was playing alongside Chris Paul, which allowed him to get better looks.  Jamal needs to work with the other backups to figure out how they can generate good possessions on offense when Paul isn't on the floor; running Jamal isolations isn't cutting it.
  • Darren Collison: Collison probably had his best game as a Clipper. Even though he shot poorly, his second-half shooting was much better and included a dagger three late in the fourth. Yeah, that's right, Collison was playing late in the fourth.  In fact, he was guarding James Harden, and doing a pretty good job, even blocking the all-star SG on at least one occasion.
All in all, it was probably the Clippers best win of the young season.  It might not have been their prettiest performance (the Golden State win or first Houston win takes that crown), but they overcame adversity, played through offensive struggles, figured it out as they went, and won against a Rockets team that we have to remember is still very much an elite Western Conference power that will compete for homecourt advantage in the playoffs.

The most interesting takeaway from this game is the rotation.  The Clippers had their most success in the second half when Crawford played the 3 with the rest of the starters and Dudley played the 4 with either Jordan or Griffin at the 5.  Will this trend of smallball whenever Griffin and Jordan aren't playing together last?  Can it possibly be effective on a regular basis?  It'll be interesting to see, especially when Barnes gets back (Matt isn't much of a 4, but he is an above average rebounder for a 3, which helps when you have a small 4 playing in Dudley).

Get the Rockets perspective at The Dream Shake and check out the box score.