Five Takeaways: Strong Second Half Pushes Clippers past Rockets
HOUSTON — In the first matchup between the Clippers (13-18) and Rockets (25-6) since their NBA landscape altering trade over the summer, a 76-point second-half propelled L.A. to a 128-118 comeback win on national television.
Here are five quick takeaways from the Clippers’ victory.
Quote of the Night: “We made a choice before the game, one-on-one, [Harden] may score 70 points, but try to guard everybody else.” - Doc Rivers
1) Rivers and Williams dominant in second half —
The Clippers went to halftime down 10 when Doc Rivers looked to his two leading scorers and urged them to be more aggressive.
“They were trying to get everybody else involved and I told them ‘No, we want to get you guys involved,’” said Rivers.
The two answered Doc’s call, leading the team to a 76-point effort in the second half, the Clippers’ highest scoring this season. In the third quarter, Austin Rivers exploded for 16 points, his most in any quarter of his career. After starting 0-for-5 from the field, Rivers then went 11-of-20 the rest of the way, including six three-pointers and eight free throws. After he got rolling, Rivers countered the extra defensive attention shown by the Rockets, dishing a season-high seven assists.
On the receiving end of a few of those passes was Williams, who drained 7-of-11 threes, tying a career-high. Williams ended the game with 32 points, marking his fifth game of the season with 30+ off the bench, an NBA best.
“They just took turns... when Lou got tired, he went to Austin. When Austin got tired, he went back to Lou, and I thought it was great,” said Doc.
2) Second half rotation change alters game —
Montrezl Harrell started the first half, but facing the smaller Rockets, Doc Rivers decided to switch things up in the second half, starting Jawun Evans alongside Austin Rivers and C.J. Williams. Evans matched a season-high with 15 points. Evans has been playing his best basketball in the past month, and the coaching staff has rewarded the rookie from Oklahoma State with more playing time. Late in the game, Evans’ pestering full-court defense drew two key offensive fouls on James Harden to help LA maintain the lead.
“He changed the game with his pressure, he’s been so big for us,” said Austin Rivers.
Having Evans on the floor gives the team another ball handler, and the Clippers turned the ball over only 8 times, matching a season-low.
3) Harden places Clippers in early bind —
Fresh off a 51-point performances against the other LA team, Harden ignited the Rockets offense, again, with a 20-point first quarter. Harden exercised his full arsenal of moves, imposing his will against the scrambling Clippers’ defense, driving off pick-and-rolls and either finishing at the rim, or drawing a foul. When the Clippers prevented the dribble drive, Harden pulled-up from three, making 4-of-6 in the opening frame. Harden scored 30 points in the first half and 21 points in the second to finish with 51 points.
4) Jordan returns home —
With a massive Houston Astros tattoo on his right shoulder, DeAndre Jordan is proud to be from the Texas city. With the region still recovering from the floods, he’s pledged $100 for each rebound he grabs in 2017-18, and at the moment, he leads the NBA in rebounding with 15.1 per game.
Tonight, Jordan secured $2,000 worth of rebounds, (20 total). This was his 12th straight game of 10+ rebounds, the longest active streak in the NBA. He also scored 15 points, marking his 19th double-double of the season.
5) Patrick Beverley receives video tribute —
Following the second timeout in the first quarter, the Toyota Center jumbotron transitioned to about a two minute video full of highlights from Patrick Beverley’s five seasons as a Rocket. As the video played some of his best moments from his stint with the organization, quotes by Beverley filled the gymnasium describing his love for the city and the team. Before the video even finished, the arena was on its feet cheering for the guard thanking him for all he’d done.
Throughout the game, Beverley, always the talker, was engaged from the bench, encouraging teammates in his suit.
What’s next? — The Clippers play the second game of a back-to-back tomorrow in Memphis 5 PM PST.