The Clippers have beaten the Rockets in their first two previous match-ups this season, but either James Harden or Chris Paul did not both play in the games. This time, the Rockets had both of their star guards in the lineup. The impact of having each player on the court showed early.
When the first quarter ended, the Rockets were already out to a 34-12 lead. Harden scored 17 of his 25 points in the first quarter that included a sick crossover that floored Clippers forward Wesley Johnson as he nailed a 3-pointer.
THE COMPLETE AND UTTER DISRESPECT. 😱 pic.twitter.com/Y2EdK8uZTh— ESPN (@espn) March 1, 2018
“I’ve been in my bag all year. So, it’s just one of those moves where I had to make him dance a little bit and made the shot,” Harden said.
Paul had a bad shooting night, scoring only eight points on 3 of 12 shooting, but did have a game-high plus-minus of +21. Clint Capela added 22 points and 14 rebounds, getting the best of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan who only scored four points.
The Clippers were coming off an emotional win off a back-to-back over the Denver Nuggets, 122-120. They came into the game against the Rockets relaxed and it hurt them down the stretch.
“I thought we came in on an emotional high last night and we eased into the game,” Clippers guard Austin Rivers said, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. “We kind of was dragging our feet, trying to just be like ‘All right, we’ll just ease into the game and try to win it from there.’ They came out and tried to whip our… and they did.”
They were able to bring the score to 83-75 to open the fourth quarter on a Milos Teodosic 3-pointer, but never were able to get any closer. Tobias Harris led the Clippers with 24 points on 9 of 16 shooting to go along with three steals. Montrezl Harrell added 22 points of his off the bench.
The Rockets will take on the Boston Celtics on Saturday to try and extend their 14-game win streak.
For the Clippers, they will try to get back on track when they face the New York Knicks on Friday.
“You don’t dwell on this one,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We didn’t play like us tonight. We didn’t play with any energy. I thought they wanted to. I thought they were excited about the game.”