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What's your biggest takeaway from Rockets-Clippers II?
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Steve Aschburner: How can it be anything but what transpired after the game itself? The image of Houston players trying to breach the Clippers’ locker room, with a back hallway and an alleged diversionary tactic at the front door, is as hilarious as the “Inside the NBA” TNT crew found it. It’s a bad look for the teams involved -- certainly the Rockets, but the Clippers earned their share of blame too -- and not a great one for the league. Not on MLK Day, not with the president of the players association as a central figure. Then again, it’s always nice to get a reminder of how competitive this league is, up to and including a little genuine dislike. I only wish, in this age of smartphones and drones, we had it all on video.
Shaun Powell: Well, we know there are deep-rooted feelings between the Clippers and Chris Paul, which really doesn't matter in the big picture. What's important is how good the Clippers will be when fully healthy, and how deep the Rockets will go into the post-season, and that game revealed no answers for either. Chris Paul has more at stake than his old teammates -- can he, James Harden and Mike D'Antoni finally win important games in May and June? Suppose they meet the Clippers in the first round and get bounced?
John Schuhmann: I'll put the post-game shenanigans aside and note that the Clippers have won 11 of their last 14 games, beating the Warriors and Rockets (twice) in that stretch. They have a winning record and are just a half game out of a playoff spot, with their opening-night starters having missed a total of 109 games and guys on two-way contracts playing more than Danilo Gallinari. Lou Williams has kept their offense in the top 10 with Blake Griffin missing 16 games and having the worst shooting season of his career. They're getting good contributions from unheralded guys like Jawun Evans, Montrezl Harrell and Willie Reed, and it's a refreshing change in Clipperland.
Sekou Smith: From a distance, the on and off the court actions of the Rockets struck me as quite immature for a veteran group that should have its focus on another team from California (the Warriors). That they allowed the Clippers, Blake Griffin and Austin Rivers in particular, to get to them makes no sense. I get Chris Paul being caught up in the emotional trap of going back to Los Angeles to face his former team for the first time. It's an emotional experience, one you have to manage properly. I just expected CP3 and his new crew to handle the night much better than they did. A legitimate contender has to learn to rise above petty foolishness in those moments and continue to grind away, something the Paul-led Clippers struggled with routinely. I thought he left the foolishness behind when he moved on to Houston ...apparently not. And you better believe the other teams chasing the Rockets in the standings noticed, too.