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Rockets escape Clippers with thrilling 100-98 victory

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Led by James Harden's 34 points, the Rockets defeated the Clippers 100-98.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

In thrilling fashion, the Houston Rockets come out of the Staples Center with a big win against the Los Angeles Clippers. Trevor Ariza's masterful 1 on 1 defense on Chris Paul on the final possession sealed the victory.

James Harden, who historically struggles against the Clippers (he averages just 18 points per game against LAC), took over this one with his scoring. He dropped 18 points in the second quarter en route to his league-leading 30th 30 point game. He recorded 34 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds while going 17-18 from the line.

It was Blake Griffin's first game back after missing the past 15 contests with a staph infection in his elbow. Griffin struggled to score the ball, but impacted the game everywhere else. His 11 points, 11 boards, and 8 dimes weren't enough.

Ariza had one of his best games of the season, finishing with 19 points and 9 rebounds. On the other side, Matt Barnes found his shooting stroke with 19 points of his own.

In the first quarter, Barnes and Harden really got into it. His flagrant foul on Harden sparked a big scrum under the hoop. Barnes threw him down like Ray Lewis would a slot wide receiver running over the middle.

It was a total non-basketball play and Barnes was called for a flagrant 1 on the play. Rockets went on a 13-2 run after the flagrant foul.

The game unfolded in a very familiar fashion. The Rockets pulled away in the third quarter, but the offense went stagnant in the fourth and the Clips were able to come back. Chris Paul, who had been a complete non-factor through the first three quarters, turned it on in when it matters. He knocked in a three from the top of the key to knot the game up at 96 and played excellent defense on Harden down the stretch.

However, Chris Paul's wizardry wasn't enough to score over the long defense of Trevor Ariza and win the game.

KEYS TO THE VICTORY:
  • Bench Production
The Rockets bench was uncharacteristically outscored 25-11. Corey Brewer was the lone bright spot with 7 points and this ridiculous dunk over Blake Griffin.

  • Rebounding

The Rockets have been outstandingly horrible on the glass recently, but kept it close with one of the best rebounding teams in the league. Donatas Motiejunas, who is a notoriously bad rebounder, had a key tip-out off a Harden miss to give the Rockets an extra possession with 31 seconds to go.

  • The Trey Ball

Nobody lives and dies by the three more than the Rockets, but the Rockets won the game without stroking it from deep. It's important for good teams to be able to win games in different ways and the Rockets did just that. They beat a playoff team without shooting the ball well. In fact, the Rockets didn't make a three the whole first quarter.