Five Takeaways: Rockets Get Going From Deep As Clippers Fall

LOS ANGELES – A strong start and an early lead for the Clippers (36-24) began to slip away in the second quarter, and the Rockets (43-19) and their bevy of 3-point shooters took advantage from there Wednesday night.

Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers’ 122-103 loss.

Quote of the Night: “We’re still getting right. We just got our two guys back, and it’s going to take time – I said that before the game. But that does not excuse how we played tonight.” – Head coach Doc Rivers

1) Houston hits 20 3s through three quarters – Playing against Houston, opponents know the Rockets will spread the floor, attack with dribble penetration, and look for outside shots. The Rockets take (40.4) and make (14.6) more 3-pointers per game than any other team, but they were on another level through three quarters Wednesday.

The Clippers couldn’t stop what the Rockets do best, hitting from deep and getting to the line, as Houston went 20-for-39 from behind the arc just through three quarters. The Clippers kept up from deep early, going 8-for-14 from 3-point range in the first half, trailing by just three in the long-range department at the time. But the Clippers would go on to hit just four more 3s the rest of the game, which wouldn’t be enough the way the game got away.

2) Too many second chances – A byproduct of taking a lot of long-range shots is a lot of long misses and the potential for more offensive rebounds, which has helped the Rockets sit at No. 5 in the league in second-chance points. They were a problem Wednesday for the Clippers, as the Rockets outrebounded the Clippers, 62-36, with the Rockets already scoring 20 second-chance points through three quarters. For perspective, the Bulls and Nuggets both lead the league with 15.6 second-chance points per game.

The 62 rebounds for the Rockets were the most the Clippers allowed to a team all year, and Houston’s 19 offensive rebounds tied for the most the Clippers allowed all year. Clint Capela led the Rockets in offensive rebounds, but he tied with guard Patrick Beverley for the game-high in total rebounds with 12, as Beverley was a problem all night crashing the glass from the perimeter.

3) Swing in momentum after flagrant on reversed call – The Clippers still had a chance as the second half began, with not much headway made either way until Griffin drew a foul on Capela with the Clippers down, 82-67 – or, at least that was the call initially. Griffin’s elbow hit Capela near the throat on the drive as he tried to draw the foul, and the call was reversed from a defensive foul to a flagrant on Griffin. That was the start of an 11-0 run for Houston, which changed the momentum entirely and essentially put away hopes for a comeback.

4) Free throws no help – The Rockets draw fouls as well as any team, and that was a major component of Houston’s early lead. By halftime, the Rockets hit nine more free throws than the Clippers. By game’s end, the Clippers were 7-for-13 from the line and the Rockets were 28-for-33.

The Clippers built an early lead by winning in the pain, going 11-for-15 in the first quarter from that area, with Blake Griffin ending the first quarter with 11 points. But with the lead dwindling and gone, the attacks inside started to diminish, and they couldn’t find ways to get the line at the same rate as the Rockets.

5) No bench bounce back – The starters willed the Clippers to a victory against Charlotte in an overtime win to end February, with all the starters finishing plus-10 or better and all the backups on the wrong end of the plus-minus category.

Early Wednesday, it was more of the same. Despite the Rockets scoring 34 points in the first quarter, the Clippers led because the starters put up 37. But early in the second quarter, it all went downhill. After Jamal Crawford put the Clippers ahead, 44-43, the Rockets scored the next 13 points, and it kept tumbling from there.

What’s Next? – The Clippers start a back-to-back Friday in Milwaukee.