Hack-a-Dwight vs Hack-a-Jordan? The Los Angeles Clippers seem to have the edge in that one as well, beating the Houston Rockets for the second time this season thanks to another big night from both Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick, while their rivals, losing a second consecutive home game, this time with a lot less drama (94-107) and even more reasons to be worried about the team they’ve built.
The Rockets went for the tactic that involves sending DeAndre Jordan to the line in the closing minutes of the game. Jordan did finish with 0-of-3 from the line, but the Clippers took him out of the game and countered with the same plan on Dwight Howard. Howard did finish with 21 points and 8 rebounds, but was 5-of-11 from the line, shooting 49.3% from the stripe this season. Omer Asik, the second center, shot 1-of-4 through the game and doesn’t provide a much more trustworthy option.
In a game of runs, the Clippers saved their best for last. The Rockets brought the game down to a four point lead after a rare moment of good basketball from James Harden. From that moment, the Clippers went on a 8-3 run to give themselves a nine point lead for the final three minutes of the game, as the Rockets began their hacking tactic which sorta backfired on them.
So what is it about the Clippers that makes them such a huge problem for Houston? Chris Paul having to play against Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin (coming off the bench once again) is part of the issue. Paul finished with 14 points and 13 assists, seeing Beverley in front of him for most of the game, but more than anything James Harden, who is becoming the nightmare teammate some predicted he would be after the ego boost he received from everyone last season, shooting 4-of-15 from the field.
The Rockets did have an 11 point lead in the third quarter, but the Clippers went on to score 13 consecutive points to close it out and gain that two point lead the extended on in the final quarter. Their defense, at some point, simply started playing well. The Rockers aren’t the Miami Heat, and the lack of movement and predictability in their schemes made an easy target for the Clippers, who actually looked like that cliche of simply wanting it more.
J.J. Redick stretching the floor is becoming a huge weapon, especially against a lazy perimeter team like the Rockets are so far this season. He shot 3-of-7 from beyond the arc, scoring 22 points. Blake Griffin, showing yet another step in his development with 22 points, taking advantage of the Rockets putting the wrong person on him most of the time, not to mention doing more than just finishing under the basket.
The Los Angeles Clippers will rise and fall on their ability to keep running and be more than just a group of guys waiting to see what Chris Paul does with the ball, like they do during their worst moments. The Houston Rockets have a similar problem with James Harden,, and a head coach who refuses to try and teach his superstar to become more of a team player.