The Rockets jumped out to an early lead, the duo of James Harden and Dwight Howard shined brightest during the first quarter helping the team jump out to a 38-17 lead.
The Rockets would stay hot in the second quarter until the Clippers employed the Hack-a-Howard strategy. The Clippers would slow the game to a grinding halt and take the Rockets out of their offensive flow. The 20 point lead the Rockets had built would be cut to 11 points as the half came to a close.
The Clippers continued to keep the game close (ish) throughout the third quarter as both teams traded Hack fouls. Both J.B. Bickerstaff and Doc Rivers kept trying to find the right lineup that would keep the other from using the strategy. The Rockets would close the quarter going small, which in turn allowed the Rockets to run again.
The Rockets would stay small and push the lead back up to 20 points and coast easily to the win.
Early Dwight Howard is good Dwight Howard
You often times hear "Get the big man involved early and it will pay dividends late."
The Rockets did just that, they got Howard going early with three of the team's first four baskets going to the big man. Howard was aggressive early and often, and ended up leading the team in scoring finishing the night with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Howard had a strong game not only on offense but was also big on defense and clearing the glass. Howard had his springs back on Saturday night and changed plenty of shots as Clippers guards and bigs had a hard time getting things to go down in the paint.
Aside from missing free throws on Hack-a-Howard (which I will get to later) this was probably one of Howard's best games of the year. He finished with 22 points on 8-11 shooting, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks
Hack-a-Howard, Hack-a-DeAndre, Hack-a-Capela, Hack-a-Smith and whoever else you wanna hack, sucks. When a team goes to the hack-a-someone strategy it just makes fans want to hack-a-Doc-Rivers'-head-off.
I don't understand why teams use this strategy, does it ever really work? I have never seen a team down 20 points, start hacking someone and then make it a five-point game. It just doesn't happen.
To be honest, it is probably more of a win for the team getting hacked. The defense has a chance to get back and be set, there is little chance of transition. Plus the team using the hacks are often taken out of the flow of their offense.
While it sucks that we still have to deal with hacking, consider it a sign of respect when a team starts to use it on Howard or Capela. Guys can't play with you offensively, so the only chance we have is fouling the bejesus out of you.
Total team win
This was not just a win where Harden had to score 40 points and the Rockets won by three or four points. This wasn't a win where the bench had to carry the team because the starters weren't cutting it.
The Rockets got the win Saturday night because the team had every aspect of their game the working. The defense was putting pressure on the Clippers, forcing turnovers and bad shots. The offense was getting whatever they wanted playing fast and moving the ball. And, to steal a term from the Texans, the Rockets played complementary basketball. When all aspects of the game are flowing it is a beautiful thing to watch.
The win over the Clippers was one of the few times this season where the Rockets looked like the team that went to the Western Conference finals last year.