Even with a 137-118 win over the Houston Rockets, the streaking Los Angeles Clippers aren’t happy with what they’ve done so far, which also happens to be the best scoring team in the NBA, while Chris Paul keeps on putting big numbers but thinking about bigger prizes.
Paul scored 23 points and added 17 assists as the Clippers stormed by the Rockets in the first quarter (42-25) and never looked back. They made the most of Dwight Howard picking up three fouls in less than six minutes, allowing them to justify their approach of not double teaming the big man early on, and having no problem slicing through the Rockets’ defense, which looked more vulnerable than ever without their new center.
J.J. Redick led the scoring with 26 points on 8-of-15 from the field, as the Clippers met a rival that simply couldn’t match them in terms of energy on the floor. They hit 15 three pointers (39.5%) and added 50 from points from inside the paint, finishing with their highest point total since 2009. Their 78 points in the first half were tied for a franchise record set in 1998.
But there’s not too much pleasure for the Clippers, leading the NBA with 119 points per game this season. They’re giving up too many points, be it in the starting lineup or when their bench is on to play. DeAndre Jordan might be a presence that changes shots and clogs the paint, but he also struggles in switches and rotations, along with Blake Griffin who suffers from the same problem when it comes to defensive focus.
Griffin added 18 points of his own on 8-of-13 from the field in yet another game of showing he’s more than just a dunking machine, hitting mid range jumpers with relative ease. Jamal Crawford enjoyed the high octane, no-defense kind of game, adding 21 points off the bench, averaging 17.8 points so far in the start of this season.
The Rockets did an excellent job on the most important of the Rockets players, focusing on stopping him in the pick and roll. Harden finished with only 15 points on 6-of-16 from the field, and 0-of-7 from beyond the arc. They might have allowed more players to score as the rolling man, but Harden didn’t have the space and lanes to stick fouls on players while getting his usual portion from the line. Without him getting hot, the Rockets didn’t have a chance of mastering an unlikely comeback, as the team shot only 28% from beyond the arc.
Doc Rivers knows this defense isn’t acceptable, but he also knows that the early stage of the season is time to experiment and take risks. When Chris Paul is playing this well, being an absolute pest on defense with 3.3 steals per game, he can allow himself to use defensive schemes you wouldn’t normally expect of him.
A lot of times I just come out with energy and that energy is not matched by the guy guarding me. Offense is pretty good. It’s all about our pace. We’re up-tempo. If a team misses, we’re running. We did score 78 points in the first half, but we also gave up 66, and we can’t allow that to happen.