In a game where both the Rockets and the Clippers appeared to have reached a mutual agreement to just have fun out there and not play any defense, L.A. could not make enough shots to keep up with Houston. And the Rockets made a lot of shots. Some were guarded, most were not.
From the beginning of the game, the Clippers played into the Rockets hands by playing fast, shooting early and shooting often. This strategy is optimal against most teams, especially when Blake has a size advantage against the opposing four and he can seal his man in the post early in the possession. But against the Rockets it’s not a viable option. They’re too good at scoring in bunches and, like with Golden State, ceding them more possession in a vain attempt to keep up with them leads to nothing but heartache.
When elite offensive teams like the Rockets and the Warriors go small against the Clippers, Griffin and Jordan have to bang with the opposing bigs down low and they have to do it all game long if L.A. wants a shot at winning the game. The Clippers had some success getting Griffin switched onto a wing and letting him go to work in the post in the first quarter, but Houston soon wrested control over the pace of the game. Far too many possessions ended with Luc Mbah a Moute taking a midrange jumper (which, admittedly he did a fair job of hitting in this game).
The defense was atrocious once again as this was the third game in the last six days where LA gave up more than 120 points. Houston got Jordan to switch onto Harden at the top of the key whenever they wanted and while DAJ did a fairly decent job of staying in front of him, Harden seemed to drill a three in Jordan’s face whenever he ceded an inch of airspace.
Also, as much as I love Russell Westbrook (and trust me I love me some Russ), James Harden is the MVP. The man moves around the court like an underwater aerobics instructor and yet the defense is helpless to do anything but react. He puts the defenders wherever he needs them to go. Harden’s a playwright and the gigantic athletic freaks paid to stop him can do nothing but play their parts, as the Clippers did tonight with gusto.
X-Factor: Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan combined for 13 rebounds. Patrick Beverly had 12. That’s all you really need to know about how effectively the Clippers leveraged their frontcourt’s size and strength against Houston’s.
Fun Fact: The game ended with the Rockets missing six consecutive three pointers and they still won the game by 19 points.
The Definition: This marks the third loss in six days to a Western conference team the Clippers came into the season measuring themselves against, and the second time the game has been over before the end of the third quarter. The games at the start of the season where L.A. looked to have achieved a mind meld on offense and a reliable defense seem a distant memory. The team hasn’t been fully healthy for long and many of these issues can be attributed to the lack of consistency. There’s still six weeks to fix it.
But if they don’t, there’s a very good chance the Clips may end up playing the team that just wiped the floor with them at home in the first round.