The Clippers were housed at the hands of the Houston Rockets 122-103 on Wednesday night at Staples Center. The Clippers actually held a lead after the first quarter, only to get completely blitzed over the final three frames.
LAC had no answer for Houston’s barrage from three-point range, as the Rockets connected on 20 of their 52 attempts from long distance. James Harden finished with 26 points to go along with nine assists and three rebounds, while Patrick Beverley was quite the irritant throughout. The Rockets’ energetic point guard scored 14 points to go along with a whopping 12 rebounds in the victory.
The Clips’ defense was miserable in this game, and they dug themselves far too deep a hole to dig out of. Houston outplayed them on both ends of the floor, and the second and third quarters were particularly embarrassing for the home team. The Rockets outscored the Clippers by a margin of 74-41 over the course of the middle two quarters. That was the ballgame.
Ryan Anderson made six threes. Harden and Beverley knocked down four apiece. Eric Gordon hit three, while Trevor Ariza made two from long range. The Clippers knew full well what the Rockets’ offensive game plan was, yet allowed them to fire away from long range with no resistance.
The Rockets also out-rebounded the Clippers by a margin of 62-36. Houston collected 19 offensive rebounds alone. Exactly one team wanted to win this game.
So, the Clips can likely kiss any dreams of the No. 3 seed goodbye. This loss drops L.A. to six games back of Houston. It’s likely time for the Clippers to really focus on securing home court advantage in the first round over Utah.
This was quite the disappointing effort considering the Clippers had two days off from their last game until tonight. This game was a golden opportunity for them to gain some serious ground on a conference foe, and they completely fell flat. LAC did absolutely nothing to disrupt what the Rockets wanted to do offensively, and Houston just beat the hell out of them tonight.
One game removed from the core four doing literally everything for the Clips offensively, Luc Mbah a Moute came out and established himself on that end in the early going. Luc canned nine quick points and also picked up a nifty assist to DeAndre Jordan to start the game.
Unfortunately, the Clippers didn’t seem to get the memo that Ryan Anderson tends to be lethal from the long line. Anderson drilled three of his first four three-point tries of the night and piled up 10 quick points as Houston got out to a quick 23-20 lead.
The Rockets were pumping up threes at-will, but they were also turning the ball over at a pretty unhealthy rate. Houston coughed the ball up five times in the first alone, leading to easy opportunities at the other end for LAC. The Clips racked up a whopping 12 assists in the first quarter alone - six from CP3 - on their 16 made baskets.
One question coming into this one was whether the Clipper bench could keep its head above water against the newly reloaded Rocket second unit. Doc Rivers began the second with the all-bench unit that struggled tremendously on Sunday night against the Hornets.
Jamal Crawford promptly launched a 35-footer at the end of the shot clock that drew nothing but net on the first possession. Not a bad way to start. Brandon Bass, apparently drunk on three-pointers, then took one from the corner that barely drew iron. Settle down, Brandon Bass.
Old friend Eric Gordon was predictably a nuisance, as he quickly flushed eight straight points through the bucket to reestablish a one-point Rockets advantage a few minutes into the second period.
A bad sign for the Clippers early on was that they weren’t really doing much to disrupt Houston’s flow offensively. Their entire philosophy is centered around taking threes and shots at the rim, and those are literally the only shots they took in the early stages. Check out the shot chart for the first quarter-and-a-half:
Rockets have yet to take a midrange shot. Clippers defense not disrupting them at all pic.twitter.com/oVGGTP7pHT— Clips Nation (@ClipsNationSBN) March 2, 2017
The Rockets gained ground with the bench on the floor, and Gordon’s hot shooting propelled them to a 52-44 lead before Rivers called for time. Houston went on an 18-2 run against the Clips’ bench guys before the core four returned to the floor about halfway through the second.
From that point until the half, James Harden was able to do whatever he wanted against the Clipper defense. He repeatedly knifed his way to the rim for easy buckets, he got to the line and he was hitting from three-point range. The Clippers gave up 70 in the first half alone and trailed by a dozen heading into the third.
Anderson started the third with a couple of more threes before Harden drilled yet another of his own to extend the Rockets’ lead to a game-high 17 early in the third. To make matters worse, Griffin was subsequently called for a flagrant foul after elbowing Clint Capela in the throat while making a move toward the rim. After two made foul shots from Capela, Patrick Beverley canned a three to make it a 22-point Houston lead at 87-65.
A quick 11-0 run from the visitors made it a 26-point game at 93-67 less than halfway through the frame. Even when the Rockets missed, Beverley was out-hustling the entire Clipper five to the loose ball.
Harden picked up a pair of consecutive offensive fouls, bringing his total to four on the night. That forced him to go to the bench, which gave the Clippers a window of opportunity late in the third.
Unfortunately, they didn’t take advantage. Beverley hit another triple - Houston’s 20th of the night - to make it 104-78. This marked the 11th time this season that the Rockets hit the 100-point mark before the start of the fourth quarter. Lou Williams collected an offensive rebound and putback to make it a 30-point deficit for L.A. going into the final frame.
The Rockets started 0-10 from the field in the fourth, but the Clippers were only able to whittle 10 points off the deficit. Houston responded with easy buckets from Trevor Ariza and Nene (x2) and that was that.
The Clippers will lick their wounds before flying Milwaukee to take on the lowly Bucks on Friday night.