The Rockets were slow and lethargic in the first half and then started the second half even worse before snapping out of their funk in the middle of the third quarter behind the sharpshooting of Eric Gordon.
James Harden then took over down the stretch, hitting a clutch jumper with 29 seconds remaining to seal the deal for Houston, as the Rockets downed the Clippers 101-96 after some precarious moments.
Houston battled all the way back from 12 points down in the third quarter to put themselves in position to win it, which was quite a feat considering how things were looking for large chunks of the contest.
The Clippers employed a full-court press strategy that threw the Rockets off their game, and that aggression combined with a sleepwalking Houston team to put the Clippers in command at the halftime break and into the early third.
The Rockets went into the intermission shooting just 38 percent overall and 5-20 from beyond the arc, and Chris Paul, who seemed to struggle most with the press, was just 2-10 from the field, and he and Harden combined for five first-half turnovers. We even watched Nene miss several easy layups, one of which DeAndre Jordan appeared to even give him the “ole’”.
It was more of the same until Gordon caught fire in the third. EG finished the game with 23 points on 8-13 shooting, including 7-9 from downtown. The rest of the Rockets shot 5-32 from beyond the arc.
In addition to Gordon, The Beard finished with 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists, while Clint Capela had a monster game matching up underneath with Jordan. Capela went for 19 points, 12 rebounds and a new career-high 6 blocked shots, including 4 of them in the third quarter when the Rockets were mounting their comeback.
The Rockets also got 11 points from CP3, who had an overall off night with just 4 rebounds and 3 assists, and Luc Mbah a Moute also scored in double figures, finishing with 10 points off of the bench.
The Clippers were led by Tobias Harris, who was the game’s top scorer with 29 points, and they also got 20 from Austin Rivers, 14 from Lou Williams, and 10 from Montrezl Harrell, to round out the L.A. players in double figures.
The Rockets have now won three games in a row after breaking their win streak with the loss to Toronto, and they move to a 54-14 record overall on the year. They can clinch their division title tonight if the Spurs defeat the Pelicans, and they still hold a full two-game lead with tiebreaker over the Golden State Warriors for the number-one seed in the West.
The Clippers drop deeper into the muck with the loss, and would be officially out if the dance started today, but those bottom teams are all so close that the standings are literally changing every night.
These two teams split their season series at two games apiece.
Houston now has a night off before hitting the road for a weekend back-to-back set in New Orleans on Saturday and Minnesota on Sunday.