The flame of the Rockets historic 2015 playoff recovery against the L.A. Clippers simmered on Monday but failed to ignite as the Houston Rockets fell to the L.A. Clippers 132 - 140 in overtime.
Heroics propelled the game to overtime as Marcus Thornton drilled two three pointers in the final 20 seconds of a game the Rockets perpetually trailed. The Rockets comeback took advantage of a distracted Clippers team who lost focus while chasing a franchise three point shooting milestone and surrendered a 14 point fourth quarter lead.
The Clippers walked out hot in overtime with three straight threes and Houston couldn't keep pace in the extra five minutes. L.A. scored 18 overtime points to dash any hope of additional Rocket heroics.
The loss ends a five game winning streak Houston had going on the L.A. Clippers: Three straight history making 2015 playoff victories and two regular season wins this season.
This game never appeared destined for a tight ending. The Clippers scored 59 first half points while shooting 12 - 20 from three in the first period. The Rockets never led in the second, third, fourth quarter or overtime.
The Rockets hung tough through the Clipper's net scorching first half thanks to a Dwight Howard first half double-double. Howard ended the night with an eye-popping 36 points and 26 rebounds, both season highs he accumulated against the man who has supposedly supplanted him as "best center in the league," DeAndre Jordan.
L.A. Three Point Shooting
Woo, boy. These Clippers basketball guys were good at round balling from behind the three point line. On the night JJ Redick went 9 - 12 from three to set a franchise record for threes in a game and scored a career high 40 points. Chris Paul complimented Redick by shooting 5 - 7 from three. Paul Pierce was 3 - 5. Wesley Johnson was 3 - 7 and may have never been guarded.
The Clippers 22 made threes were a franchise record. Hell. Even a Clipper bro in a Chris Paul jersey made an underhanded three pointer during a commercial break to win plane tickets to Australia.
James Harden's Defense
The non-stop parade of three pointers from Clippers shooters. Yea, that was pretty regularly James Harden's man. This is not the YouTube videos of comically lax defense. The Clippers were running Harden through screens all night and targeting him in the pick and roll as frequently as possible.
Doc Rivers doesn't coach in the NBA to be a good dude. He refused to let potential all-star C.J. McCollum play two weeks ago when the Portland Trail Blazers committed a freaking paperwork error. Rivers spent years playing in the NBA, surely he'd understand a paperwork mistake isn't the player's fault. Nah. It's just an advantage. He's one cold dude.
Tonight Rivers put a target on Harden's back as a defensively liability. The Clippers screened Harden as much as possible and forced him to be the on-ball defender in as many pick and rolls as possible. It worked and helped propel JJ Redick's three point shooting to new heights.
SIDE NOTE: The Houston Rockets played the L.A. Lakers last night and the L.A. Clippers today, both in Staples Center. Meaning the entire Rockets team spent the night in Los Angeles. Certainly J.B. Bickerstaff put the entire team on a curfew. No chance anyone stayed up late.
Beverley was doing his job. He spent much of the first half harassing Chris Paul and fighting through and around screens (the opposite of Harden). Beverley left the game in the third quarter with the same ankle injury that has been nagging him in the past month. The Rockets defense didn't look the same without him.
Let's talk about Beverley leaving the game for a second... Beverley left the game with 10 minutes left in the third quarter because he picked up his fourth foul. While on the bench the training staff decided to take him to the locker room.
This fourth foul, though. With 2:18 left in the first half J.B. Bickerstaff decided to intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan after a Terrence Jones free throw. He had Patrick Beverley commit this foul! Terrence Jones was at the line. Bickerstaff could have brought in K.J. McDaniels, Jason Terry or anyone to commit this foul. Instead, Beverley leaves the game with 10 minutes left in the third quarter with his fourth foul after picking up an unnecessary intentional foul on Jordan at the end of the half. Lame.
Thornton soaked up the minutes Patrick Beverley missed and his offense is what propelled the Rockets to overtime. Thornton controlled himself after hitting two monster threes in the final minute of this game. I commend him for it. Being on the L.A. Clippers court with Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell watching... there's a million ways he could of celebrated those clutch shots. But he kept himself composed. Thornton scored 23 points in 20 minutes, the second highest total on the Rockets.
Rockets Free Throw Shooting
Dwight Howard went 14 of 18 from the free throw line. I'll write that again. Dwight Howard went 14 of 18 from the free throw line.
That didn't stop the Rockets from missing 19 free throws though. Harden missed five while Terrence Jones went 2 for 7. Harden even missed a technical free throw. It's just a disappointing fact. The Rockets should expect to win every game Dwight Howard goes 14 of 18 from the free throw line.
- The Rockets deserve a ton of credit for hanging tough in this game and forcing overtime. They looked roasted during the fourth quarter.
- J.B. Bickerstaff put James Harden on the bench for the first six minutes of the second quarter and the Rockets second team brought a 12 point deficit down to 5 points.
- Steve Ballmer was sitting next to Conan O'Brien.