Flat. There is no other way to really describe the effort from the Houston Rockets tonight. They had six days off, the Los Angeles Clippers were coming off a huge emotional victory on Saturday night, the Clippers were even missing their best player and team leader Chris Paul. Still the Rockets fell to the Clippers, 117-101.
This was a complete and total let disaster from the get go. There is no excuse to give up 117 points to a team that is starting Austin Rivers as their point guard. To his credit Rivers did have a career high four steals tonight.
Let's just cut to the chase though, the Rockets just quit. They quit on the game, they quit on themselves and if we got really emo we could say they quit on everyone. Don't know if I'd go that far.
Give the Clippers credit for winning the game, but the Rockets just quit. Rudy Tomjanovic would have no voice right now, none. Heads would be rolling. They mentally just checked out.
With just over two minutes left there the game was still in reach and they started shooting threes and playing defense... Actually their defense couldn't have kept a quadriplegic hobo from getting to a dumpster tonight. It was that bad. How do you justify that?
Were there any positives?
Despite the nine first quarter turnovers they held the Clippers to 32% shooting, Trevor Ariza had 11 points and Harden had eight. Then outside of Tracy McGrady and Hakeem Olajuwon sitting at courtside there wasn't a whole lot of other positives.
Harden was completely locked down by Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick, DeAndre Jordan thoroughly outplayed Dwight Howard, the Clippers bench killed the Rockets bench, Rivers outplayed anything the Rockets called a point guard (Jason Terry/Pablo Prigioni) tonight. Harden is actually lucky he didn't get the Original Russell Westbrook Triple-Double (points/assists/turnovers). He had eight all by himself tonight.
Then there was Blake Griffin who had his second straight triple-double (third overall) this post season imposed his will and took the game over. It was something that I feared would happen coming into this series and it came to fruition. The Rockets couldn't switch Howard on to him defensively because Jordan was causing just enough havoc on the offensive boards to keep Dwight locked on to him. That is why Blake dominated Terrence Jones, Josh Smith, Clint Capela, Otis Thorpe or whoever the Rockets happened to throw at him tonight. It didn't matter.
The Rockets have 45 turnovers in the last two games. So we know exactly where they need to fix their effort. A lot of forced shots, a lot of playing with no heart.
If they can't muster the heart and the fortitude to play with some intensity in game two on Wednesday night (8:30PM on TNT) then might as well throw in the towel in the series. It'll just be a repeat of what happened in 1996 against the Seattle Supersonics.