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Clippers Defeat Rockets 128-118 Behind Rivers, Williams 30-Point Performances

So. Much. Yes.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know where to start, or where to go, so let’s just dive right in to talking about some of the kick-ass stuff that went down tonight. Hopefully I don’t miss anything big.

  • The Clippers were competing early on a possession-by-possession basis, but slow starts for Lou Williams and Austin Rivers basically doomed them to a double-digit first-quarter deficit. James Harden went off for 20 first quarter points and things were looking bleak through 12 minutes.
  • In the second quarter, the Clippers put up a fight but weren’t able to gain ground against the Rockets. They ultimately lost the quarter by 3, leading to a 13-point halftime deficit. At this point, I had resigned myself to a loss (I had already sort of accepted it before the game even began), and was simply happy that the Clippers were putting up a fight.
  • In the third quarter, Austin Rivers happened. He had 5 points almost instantly, and ended up with 16 points in the period. With the Clippers back in the game, Lou Williams came off of the bench and hit two huge threes at the end of the period, with a C.J. Williams triple at the buzzer giving L.A. a narrow 2-point lead heading into the final frame.
  • In the fourth quarter, just when it looked like the Rockets were finally righting the ship, Lou Williams hit three tough three-pointers in a 70-second span to put the Clippers ahead by 8 and give them the buffer that they needed to hold on for the victory. Three more Austin threes—and another by Lou—later in the period kept the Clippers ahead,
  • The final two threes were a pair of daggers: one by Lou to put the Clippers ahead by 9 with 1:35 to play, and then a killer step-back by Austin to give them a 12-point lead with a minute left. At that point, Houston’s fate was sealed.
  • Far from insignificant was an error by the officiating crew that allowed Jawun Evans to stay in the game late when he should have fouled out. Evans committed his 6th foul reaching in on a James Harden drive with 3:10 to play, but the officials mistakenly attributed the foul to Lou Williams, who was not in foul trouble. Jawun guarded James Harden down the stretch, ultimately drawing two (admittedly questionable) offensive fouls on two crucial possessions that stymied any hope of a miracle for the Rockets. Evans had a phenomenal game throughout with 15 points and 4 assists, hitting three threes and guarding Harden for much of the game.
  • Austin Rivers (36 points, 7 assists) and Lou Williams (32 points, 7 assists) combined for a remarkable 68 of the Clippers’ 128 points and hit 13 threes between them. It’s really difficult to overstate how crucial they’ve been to the Clippers’ efforts at stealing wins while shorthanded.
  • Lou wasn’t the only former Rocket who mattered in this game: while Montrezl Harrell had a quiet night and barely played after starting at power forward, Sam Dekker made a really nice contribution with 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in 28 minutes off of the bench.
  • Doc Rivers once again went with both of his two-way players in the starting lineup. C.J. Williams had 9 points on 4-9 shooting and Jamil Wilson had 3 points on 1-3 shooting, with both taking shifts on James Harden defensively. Wilson fouled out in 23 minutes.
  • Spectacular DeAndre Jordan performances are the norm, but it’s worth noting that he added 15 points and 20 rebounds while being the backbone of a defense that would be nothing without him. He also hit all four of his free throws on two late possessions when Mike D’Antoni chose to use the hack-a-DJ strategy, further helping ward off any potential Rockets comeback.
  • This is easily the Clippers’ best win of the season, and it comes at a pivotal moment: tomorrow night’s game in Memphis, when a rested Milos Teodosic will be back in the lineup, will be first of five consecutive games against teams with worse records than L.A. The Clippers are 13-18 after their win tonight. You do the math.