After the Clippers rode hot shooting, strong rebounding, and Chris Paul's brilliance to a 46 point first quarter, it seemed like Wednesday night's contest was all but over. James Harden was out with a bum ankle, Carlos Delfino couldn't get anything going in his stead, and it seemed unlikely that Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons alone could propel the Rockets past Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and the Clippers.
In the end, the Rockets' effort wasn't enough, but a collective team effort over the last three quarters allowed the Rockets to make quite the game of it. Donatas Motiejunas came off the bench for a career high 13 points, James Anderson added some steady contributions, the duo of Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons enjoyed varied success in a night where the Rockets nearly overcame inferior talent to surprise the Clippers.
Boiled down to its core, the game was a great battle between a superior team in top form and an inferior one missing its leader. There were moments of entertainment, but to be perfectly honest, it was a fairly vanilla night of basketball. However, one thing stuck out, and that's what we will be discussing tonight in our recap.
Donatas Motiejunas, in his longest outing of his career, had a terrific night, scoring 13 points in 16 minutes. In those 16 minutes, he showed off an ability to run the floor, to score in the post, and work in the pick-and-roll game, three of his strongest skills coming out in the Draft. There were times when he still looked a little green around the gills, but in what appeared to be an audition for backup center minutes, Motiejunas thrived.
Now, he's going to have to work on his rebounding. He got pushed around in the paint a little bit, and though he managed to grab three rebounds in limited minutes, his ability to box out and corral boards has to improve. Regardless, he made the case for more minutes moving forward, and that should be an interesting story to follow after the All-Star Break.
Though going into a long break with a loss is tough, the Rockets can take solace in the fact that they just stuck with a championship contender for 48 minutes with James Harden on the bench. Add in the potential emergence of a new bench big man, and you have plenty of silver linings to a double-digit loss.