Five Takeaways: Clippers win their fifth straight after beating Rockets
LOS ANGELES — In a playoff-level, intensity filled game, the Clippers (22-21) beat the Rockets (30-12), 113-102, as the Clippers stretch to 11-3 in their last 14 games.
Here are five quick takeaways in the Clippers win.
1) Griffin fills box score —
With 3:40 left in the game, and the Clippers in transition off a Rockets miss, Blake Griffin found himself in the post on a mismatch against Rockets guard Chris Paul. Griffin took his time, backed him down, drop-stepped past Paul, lifted up for a layup and was fouled by Trevor Ariza, converting the and-1.Nobody on the Rockets liked the call. Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni yelled at the refs and yelled at Griffin. Griffin chirped back, which led to Paul stepping in. D’Antoni received a technical, giving the Clippers an additional free throw. It was the point of no return for the Rockets, with Griffin being the go-to guy for the Clippers.
Things got heated, to say the least, during the game’s final moments. Kiki Vandeweghe and the league offices will, surely, have the final word. But it was Griffin who had the last laugh tonight, as the Clippers win was in large part behind his 29-point, 10-rebound, 6-assist performance. Even with Clippers guard Lou Williams’ hot shooting night, Griffin led the team in the final stretch, as the offense ran through him.
2) Chris Paul returns —
For six years, Chris Paul captained the LA Clippers. Besides the lockout shortened season, the Clippers won 50+ games every season, making the playoffs each year. He’s the franchise leader in assists. He was all-NBA five times. In a small gesture of thanks, during the first timeout of the game, the Clippers aired a tribute video for Paul, encompassing his time as Clipper. By the video’s conclusion, the crowd cheered and thanked their former point guard, who in return waved back.
Without James Harden, Paul was the primary facilitator in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, pushing the pace and setting up his teammates. Paul finished with 19 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds.
3) Two time Player of the Week stars, again —
For the second time in three weeks, the Clippers “sixth man” won the Western Conference Player of the Week award. Lou Williams led the team to a 4-0 record over the week, including a 50-point explosion against the Warriors on national TV.
It’s becoming blatantly clear Williams thrives on national TV, as tonight’s game aired on TNT. Near the end of the second quarter, he scored 9 consecutive points as he traded buckets with the Rockets, his former team of 23 games last season. By halftime, Sweet Lou totaled 16 points and 6 assists, leading the team in both categories.
By the third quarter, Williams reached 20 points, giving him the longest active streak of 20+ points scored in a game in the NBA with 13 consecutive. He ended the night with a game-high 31. His 405 points since Dec. 22 leads the NBA, and he ranks second in points per game during that time span.
4) Familiar Faces —
Beyond just Paul, each team deployed players that had previous experience with the other team. Eric Gordon, the Clippers seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft, led the Rockets in scoring with 19 points. Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who played two seasons for the Clippers, appeared in his first game in 14 games and contributed with 5 points and 3 steals.
Goon Squad motor Montrezl Harrell supplied his usual, incredible off-the-bench energy, putting in 10 points against the team that drafted him 32nd in 2015 draft. Sam Dekker, 18th overall pick by the Rockets in the 2015 draft, scored 2 points and added 3 assists.
5) Blistering start —
Entering the night, both teams ranked in the top 10 in scoring. The Clippers ranked ninth with 107.3 points per game, while the Rockets ranked second with 115.0 points per game. Right from the opening tip, neither team’s defense could do much to slow down the other’s offense. The Rockets led after the opening frame, 31-30, even though the Clippers shot 57-percent from the field, and making half of their three-pointers. The Rockets only shot 44-percent from the field, but grabbed 4 offensive rebounds. Both teams were perfect from the free throw line, with the Clippers making 3 and the Rockets sinking 5. Montrezl Harrell scored 7 points in the quarter, leading the Clippers. Clint Capela bested the Rockets with 8.
As the night went on, the Clippers continued their prolific shooting. Ending the night with 55-percent shooting and 10 made three-pointers. The Rockets couldn’t keep up, finishing the night with only 40-percent shooting and 29-percent from deep.
What’s Next? — The Clippers play the Denver Nuggets Wednesday at 7:30 PST.