Hard-nosed defense won the game for the Clippers, as they out-defended, out-blocked, and out-rebounded the Rockets in a 99-98 Los Angeles victory.
Dennis Schroeder’s aggression getting into the paint kickstarted the Rockets offense. Between Schroeder and Jalen Green, the Rockets’ athleticism and speed were points of concern for the Clippers perimeter defense.
They were joined tonight by Jae-Sean Tate, who’s energy tonight was apparent. On this Rockets team, stocked so full with young talent, Tate is my personal favorite to watch. Tough. Aggressive. Talented. Tate may not be a household name yet, but if anyone on this team is determined to work their way there, it’s that guy.
Isaiah Hartenstein also got off to a quick start tonight. With 10 points, two rebounds and two blocks in his first six minutes, Hartenstein became the first player on either team to break double digit points.
Clippers, who couldn’t convert from distance in the first half, quickly allowed the Rockets to build a double digit deficit. A 15-6 run to end the second quarter, however, cut the Houston lead to just four, heading into the half.
And then, a minute into the second half, Reggie Jackson retook the lead for the good guys.
Jackson showcased his full bag of tricks tonight, en route to 26 points, six assists, and nine rebounds. Especially in the most crucial moments of the game tonight, Jackson rescued a Clippers offense that has a propensity to go stale, from time to time.
The Ivica Zubac-led interior defense also pulled in a season-high 12 blocked shots, tonight. Zubac personally registered 14 points, 15 rebounds, and a career-best six (six!) blocks, including the game-clinching block with 16.1 seconds left in the game.
And as a direct result of Zubac’s domination, the Clippers, who were the fourth worst ranked team in terms of rebounding percentage coming into this game, out-rebounded the Rockets tonight, 59-37.
Between Hartenstein and Zubac, the Clippers big rotation have proved themselves more than capable of dominating, when given the chance. For a team that is still a Kawhi Leonard, a Paul George, and a Norman Powell away from being at full strength, this type of contribution by committee is necessary as the Clippers fight for a spot in the playoffs.
With this win, Los Angeles improves to a game above .500. They face the Rockets again, on Tuesday, playing for a regular season series sweep of the Rockets.