The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets get smacked by the Clippers in Houston 125-105
Depending on who you ask, this game could be used as confirmation for a lot of what we already believed about these two teams. The Clippers are mammoths defensively and have the personal to counter Houston's micro-ball lineups better than any other team in the NBA. It starts on the glass, where the Rockets were outrebounded 57 to 51 and more importantly allowed 15 Clippers' offensive rebounds.
On probably Houston's most important remaining game of the season, Los Angeles just played significantly harder than the Rockets, from the opening tip. There's really no excusing Houston's effort given the magnitude of this game and this importance on the final standings (the Clippers now hold a three game lead in the standings with a tied season series record). The Rockets have stated that the second seed is the final remaining goal of the season and they may have tossed out all hope of that tonight.
Mike D'Antoni: "They smacked us good, and we didn't respond. Didn't respond defensively, didn't respond anywhere." https://t.co/BvcnaV3mmD— Salman Ali (@Salman Ali)1583467256.0
A lot of the focus will be on Houston's shooting struggles and to be fair, it was definitely a factor tonight (13 of 40 from three-point range). However, the Clippers were just a brute force defensively, seemingly forcing 24-second violation after 24-second violation and the Rockets could not get out in transition due to their inability to get stops defensively. The poor shooting was pretty unprecedented, but this loss hangs squarely on their shoulders.
"Great learning experience for us on both ends of the ball," said James Harden after the game. "We got 21 games left to prepare ourselves for the bigger picture. So we watch film tomorrow, get better, and be ready to go next game."
Star of the game: The thing about floor spacing is it doesn't disappear when your shooters miss shots for a game. Defenders still slide over and leave the paint relatively unattended to. This was evident in Russell Westbrook's performance tonight as he logged 29 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal. It felt like Westbrook consistently played with the most effort on the Rockets from buzzer to buzzer and tried his hardest to bring the Rockets within striking distance.
Honorable mention: I guess this goes to James Harden by default, but it wasn't pretty. Virtually everyone outside of Russell Westbrook was inefficient an and bad defensively. Harden got the rim a lot in the first quarter and for a while, was the only one scoring on the Rockets. This trend obviously didn't keep up as Harden logged 16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal tonight on an abysmal 36.7% true shooting.
Key moment: There were no key moments tonight. The Clippers dominated Houston from the opening tip and aside from a few poster dunks, this was an uneventful game.
Kawhi mixed up PJ and then posterized RoCo 🤭 https://t.co/0zoILmvS9f— Bleacher Report (@Bleacher Report)1583462735.0
Up next: The Rockets travel to Charlotte at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday to take on the Hornets.