Wednesday night was a pivotal matchup for both the LA Clippers and the Houston Rockets, 5th and 3rd seeds in the west respectively. Los Angeles came in 36-23 following their OT win against Charlotte, however Houston’s MVP front-runner came into Staples Center to win.
James Harden got off to a quick start in his hometown of LA, putting up 18 1st quarter points on 5-9 shooting (2 3PM) along with 5 AST. He was not alone however on offense, with Ryan Anderson and Patrick Beverly getting 3-pointers to drop in succession.
The Clippers led by 3 at the end of the first period (34-37), but the quick pace of Houston in the second quarter caught LA off guard. Trailing 44-43, the Rockets scored 13 straight, taking a 56-44 lead with 6:38 to play in the second quarter. A lead that LA would not catch.
This period really put the game away for Doc Rivers’ team, giving up 36 points while only scoring 21. Houston’s 70-58 halftime lead marked the eighth time this season the Rockets had 70 or more points by halftime. They made 11 of 24 3-pointers in the first half.
”You don’t really realize how many we are taking until you hear later because it’s so naturally the way we play,” said Ryan Anderson, who finished the contest with 23 points and a team-high six 3s. ”It’s fun basketball when you trust the next guy to give up the shot and make the right play to get the open look.”
The last half of play was paint drying, though Rockets’ Coach Mike D’Antoni kept Harden in for most of it. Houston made 9 three-point shots in the 3rd, but none in the fourth, a little conspicuous, but something Houston can live with as long as they play good defense and hold a substantial lead.
”Most of all it was our defense,” Paul said. ”I think that’s where (the Rockets) sort of break your spirit when they make all those tough 3s. We have to be able to, when they make a shot, get it out, run it back down and score ourselves.”
Guard Patrick Beverley displayed that well, staying in the Jersey of Clippers’ Chris Paul the entire night, and grabbing a PTS/REB double-double with 14 points and 12 boards. Along with him, Nene and Clint Capela also finished with double-double’s. Harden was one AST shy with 26 and 9.
Houston extended its NBA record to nine games with 20 or more 3-pointers this season. And with their seventh victory in their last nine games overall, the Rockets rebounded from the 117-108 loss to Indiana two nights earlier.