In one of the ugliest games of the season, the Clippers managed just enough offense in the fourth quarter to start their road trip on the right foot, winning 109-104.
The way the team got there was wholly unexpected. The Clippers have been one of the very best third-quarter teams in the league season, posting a plus-9.7 net rating in that frame, the second-highest in the NBA after Utah.
Given that context, the team that showed up in the third quarter in Houston Friday night was almost unrecognizable. After scoring 65 points in the first half, the Clippers put up 11 in the third quarter on 5-of-22 shooting.
Eleven. And yes, that was a low for the Clippers for any quarter this season.
What a stretch of basketball we just witnessed. pic.twitter.com/BlOmavyMkn— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) April 24, 2021
Fortunately, the team’s defense kept the Clippers in contact, as they held the Rockets to only 19 of their own. Still, with 9:43 to play, L.A. was down by seven, and looking fairly lifeless. The Clippers weren’t being active on defense, they were throwing the ball all over the gym, and it seemed like the underdog Rockets might have collected enough mojo to spring the upset.
Reggie Jackson made sure that didn’t happen. He scored nine consecutive points to put the Clippers up two, as he scored 13 of his own in the fourth quarter. Then he passed the baton to Paul George for the final touches. George had 20 points in the first half, but was held to just three in the third quarter as every Clipper struggled to shoot from the field. He rallied for 10 in the final period, getting into the paint and exploiting his size advantage over the smaller Houston defenders.
George finished with 33 points and a season-high 14 rebounds. Five other Clippers scored in double figures, including former Rockets DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson, as well as Amir Coffey. This was the first time Coffey scored at least 10 points in a Clippers win in two months, as he provided some needed punch with all of the team’s absences.
It was certainly a closer game than the Clippers would have preferred, but they continue to find a way to get the job done.