James Harden had his second straight 51-point game, also going for 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals while shooting 15-28 from the field, but he fouled out down the stretch on back-to-back flops/horrible calls to punctuate a frustrating night all around for Houston.
They jumped out to a 33-23 lead after the first period and extended it to 65-52 at the halftime break, but that’s when things began to go awry.
Both Austin Rivers and former Rocket Lou Williams got scorching hot, and Houston just couldn’t keep them from scoring. Rivers finished the game with 36 points and 7 assists on 11-25 from the field, while Williams had 32 and shot 7-10 from beyond the arc. It was the second straight game a former Rocket had a hand in a Houston defeat, after Corey Brewer put up 21 in Wednesday’s loss to the Lakers.
This was the second straight Houston loss after their 14-game win streak, and it was also the second straight loss to a team with a losing record, a team from L.A. and their second straight at the Toyota Center.
In addition to The Beard’s big night, the Rockets also got 28 points from Eric Gordon, a 14-point, 10-rebound double double from Ryan Anderson, and 12 points from Trevor Ariza, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the second-half doldrums after their fast start.
Houston came out sluggish after the break and played like the game was already decided, and it came back to bite them down the stretch.
They were playing without three rotation players in Chris Paul, Clint Capela, and Luc Mbah a Moute, but the Clippers were shorthanded as well, missing four of their starters, including former Rocket Patrick Beverley, who received a tribute video played during break at the Toyota Center.
In addition to the big nights from Rivers and Williams, the Clippers also got 15 points and 20 rebounds from Deandre Jordan. The big man also hit four straight free throws late in the fourth when the Rockets tried to employ a hack-a strategy. The Clips also got 15 from Jawun Evans, who should have fouled out but was allowed to stay when an infraction he committed was mis-assigned to Lou Williams instead. They also got 12 from former Rocket Sam Dekker, who also stepped up against his former squad.
The Rockets fall to 25-6, and could drop out of first place in the Western Conference standings if Golden State wins tonight.
They’ll be off for the next two evenings before returning on Christmas night for a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Hopefully the Rockets get healthy and get right before that primetime contest.