It happened again. Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers stole yet another close win from the Houston Rockets, going on a late run to win at home, 95-91.
In addition to Paul's dominance, curious decision-making plagued the Rockets down the stretch. Kevin McHale elected to run out a lineup consisting of Luis Scola at center within the final three minutes. Scola didn't do diddly squat on offense in that time (as usual) and Paul repeatedly took the ball down the lane, full-well knowing that Scola wouldn't stop him. Meanwhile, Samuel Dalembert sat on the bench.
Later, with four seconds remaining, Patrick Patterson should have missed his second of two free throws in order to set up a possible offensive rebound. One again, McHale left Dalembert — a capable offensive rebounder — on the bench and Patterson made the free throw. Without any timeouts, had Chris Paul missed one of his two ensuing free throws, the Rockets still wouldn't have had time to go the length of the floor and take a good shot.
Despite the miscues late — which have cost Houston two possible wins against the Clippers — the Rockets played incredibly well given the absence of Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin and Chandler Parsons. Lee dropped 25 points on a Martin-esque 14 shots, and Goran Dragic recorded 14 assists. Most importantly, Chase Budinger stepped up big to score 19 points filling in for Parsons. Despite the loss, it's great to see such confidence from all three players against a good opponent on the road.
Three more thoughts to send you on your way:
1. Patterson In The Post
Patrick Patterson came to play today. He hasn't improved as much as we'd hope thus far, but in today's game, he might have played his best game on the block all year. He showed off a variety of post moves and up-and-unders and looked far less robotic than usual. Most encouragingly, he looked very comfortable taking his jump hook, which needs to become a staple of his arsenal.
2. Morris Makes An Appearance
Marcus Morris played extended minutes at small forward and he didn't do a whole lot. He's still getting used to playing within the flow of the offense, but I would have liked to see him exert more assertiveness in the post. Morris' strength as a small forward is his size and I wish we could have seen him show off a few moves. I wouldn't expect the Rockets to run specific plays for the rookie just yet, so it'll be up to Morris to find his own scraps, a la Chandler Parsons.
3. Scola Cools Off
Luis Scola shot 4-14 for just 10 points after averaging over twenty points in his last three games. No qualms here: Luis has been money recently, and sometimes your off nights come at the wrong time. It would have been a big boost for Scola to show up late for Houston, but then again, that's just never been his game.
Good showing from Houston. Moral victories may not be of much use to this team, but I think they'll find more good than bad from this game. By the way, courtesy of Craig Ackerman, the Rockets now drop to 18-1 when allowing 96 points or less on the year. That's a stat to keep an eye on as Houston travels to Phoenix to play the high-scoring Suns on Sunday.
Rockets Record: 24-21