A disappointing performance from the Houston Rockets culminated with a 102-113 loss and the ejection of both Blake Griffin and Trevor Ariza in the closing minutes of Chris Paul’s chippy return to the Clippers home court.
Paul was honored for his return with a first quarter in-stadium video and shout out from the public address announcer. Neither produced a wholesale standing ovation. Some stood, some sat. The entire arena seemed ready to move on with the game and the future of the franchise.
The drama featured a Hollywood buildup beginning at the opening tip when Paul and Griffin declined to dap, trade business cards or say hello.
In the first half Paul narrowly avoided a whistle on former teammate Blake Griffin. The contact solicited an immediate “that was a F@#$% foul.” Paul appeared to respond to the outburst by referring to his former teammate with an expletive. You be the judge...
The tension continued to build with glances and jostling until reaching a crescendo in the fourth. Blake Griffin was awarded a continuation foul while spinning around Paul. Mike D’Antoni reacted by berating Griffin with a “F you Blake.” Griffin objected to this and Paul decided to step in the middle of the argument:
CP3 stepping to Blake Griffin after Blake and Mike D'Antoni were going at it pic.twitter.com/hMeaKJYCew— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 16, 2018
When it was sorted out, Blake and D’Antoni were awarded a double technical.
From there things got even more chippy.
Griffin spiked a ball off Eric Gordon with zeal:
Blake Griffin with the dodgeball spike on Eric Gordon pic.twitter.com/gXUD56ygSJ— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 16, 2018
It went unpenalized, but Griffin got tossed after Austin Rivers decided to get in Trevor Ariza’s ear from the bench. It doesn’t really make sense if you just read that sentence, but here’s the video:
Austin Rivers bout that life talking trash to Trevor Ariza pic.twitter.com/s6o2dKtDWG— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 16, 2018
At the end of the night, Griffin may have been ejected, but the Rockets were the ones on tilt for most of the night.
The Rockets put forward an unconvincing first half. They shot 27% from three for the half while pressing forward with a questionable assortment of offensive techniques. Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson continuously put the ball on the floor as slashers. While Clint Capela kept hoisting off-balance bunnys after receiving the ball deep in the post. And no one showed a passing interest in guarding Lou Williams.
Williams burned the nets when the red and yellow offense slowed. The former Rocket continued a blistering streak by finishing with 31 points to barely outpace Griffin’s 29.
Houston let the game get away in the third quarter. They came out listless and allowed the Clippers to post a 12-point lead. A return to normal order cut the LA lead down to four, but the Rockets abandoned defense and allowed LA’s motley assortment to reestablish and maintain distance in the fourth quarter.
The red and yellow boys shot just 40% from the field and routinely failed to convert on the Clippers’ 18 turnovers.
Paul and Eric Gordon both finished with 19 points. Paul gave it his all in an emotional game, but in moments when the Rockets needed both of them the most, their three pointers wouldn’t fall.
Luc Mbah a Moute returned after missing 15 games with a dislocated shoulder and Tarik Black took the court after an eye injury kept him out for a game. Houston’s latest signing, R.J. Hunter, took the court in garbage time for a few meaningless possessions. The guard is so new his name wasn’t even on the back of his jersey.
There’s a great deal for Rockets fans to be bitter about, but the biggest takeaway from the game is that these teams meet again Feb. 28.