In a game of runs, he who had the last laugh walked away the victor in last nights game.
And that ‘he’ just happened to be the Los Angeles Clippers.
Up until the halfway point of the third quarter, the Houston Rockets were having their way with the Clippers, outscoring the team that had defeated them just a short week ago 71-60. Momentum was in Houston’s favor and their defense, anchored by Patrick Beverly whom drew the task of being a pest to Chris Paul, had stifled the best offense in the NBA.
And it was no coincidence that when Beverly was forced to sit after committing his fourth foul at the six minute mark of the third quarter that the Clippers ripped off the run that eventually put them into the driver’s seat the rest of the way. More specifically an 18-0 run to end the third and begin the fourth quarter is what did the job.
Led by Blake Griffin, the power forward finished the night with a game-high 22 points for the Clippers was big down the stretch scoring 9 points on 3-3 buckets, but the stars of the show were reserves Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison. On a combined 8 of 16 shooting the two guards hooked up for 23 points in the last seventeen minutes of the game. While Crawford has played a great season seven games in this was the first time Darren Collison, the replacement for super substitute Eric Bledsoe, made a true impact this season.
Chris Paul acknowledged post game how big of a game this was for the Clippers, having won their first true away game of the season.
“We needed to win this one. It’s already been a tough trip for us and this would’ve been horrible. It’s a Western Conference team and it puts us back over .500 after seven games. It’s a good win.”
What will fly under the radar is the defense that was played in the second half, easily the best defensive half of the season for Los Angeles. Led by DeAndre Jordan (who had himself a game in his hometown with 12 points and 18 rebounds), the Clippers held the Houston Rockets to 34 points in the second half. Jordan was also a key factor in holding Dwight Howard-Omer Asik combination to five points in the second half compared to the 23 combined points scored in the first half.
Doc Rivers thought Jordan’s impact was a big reason in the sparked comeback.
“I think we played him 15-straight minutes in the game and we really felt like at that point we had nowhere else to go and he was playing so well. He kept saying he wanted to stay in. I thought his presence when we were all small and he stayed in there by himself as the only big was huge.”
At one point in the fourth quarter the Rockets only trailed 84-80 following a James Harden made free throw, but from that point on their defense couldn’t keep the Clippers from scoring points nor could they muster up any points from the field. The only shots made from the floor during the last seven minutes of the game for Houston came from Parsons with two field goals. The rest of the team went 0-4.
For the Rockets, offensive production was only found from Patrick Beverly and Chandler Parsons down the stretch, scoring 23 of the teams 39 points in the second half. Parsons finished with a game-high 23 points and Beverly scored 19. James Harden had another subpar game against the Clippers as he battled a foot injury that limited his effectiveness on the floor. He finished the night with 12 points on 15 shots and only 3 free-throw attempts.
Last night’s performance was a positive as the Clippers finally looked like the defensive team everyone thought they could be under Doc Rivers. Holding a Houston Rockets team whose offensive rating of 105.6 is ranked fifth in the league overall is no small task. With the Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies coming up on the schedule, we’ll see if this defensive performance was a sign that things are improving or a fluke against a struggling rockets team.
Next Game: Monday, November 11th – Minnesota Timberwolves