Rockets 122, Clippers 103 - Rockets Dominate Clippers with Uptick in Heart

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The Houston Rockets picked up a big win in Los Angeles, completely and efficiently dominating a fully healthy Clippers team. Behind a call to action from James Harden, who recently demanded more heart from his squad, the Rockets cruised by a good team to earn a much-needed statement win.

A frantic pace opened up the Staples Center on Wednesday night, and the Rockets came out shooting. Unlike the abysmal downtown shooting that the Rockets suffered through in Wednesday’s loss against the Indiana Pacers, the Rockets drained five of their first seven three-point attempts. The shooting cooled off for the remainder of the quarter (just one make in the next six attempts from downtown), and the Clippers star-studded duo of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul took over, recording 11 points and six assists, respectively. After one, the Clippers held a slim 37-34 lead.

The second quarter quickly turned into a scorer’s duel between perennial sixth man of the year candidate Jamal Crawford and current candidate for that award – Eric Gordon. The combatants started a scoring binge by trading deep three-pointers and kept firing from there. Crawford added a couple of more baskets, but Gordon, who really struggled in Monday’s game, caught fire with 13 points in just the first five minutes of the period. This scoring punch came amidst an 18-2 run that gave the Rockets a 56-44 lead and, ultimately, a 70-58 lead by halftime.

Ryan Anderson, who was a big part of the shooting flurry to open the game, continued his hot streak to open the third and hit back-to-back threes. James Harden followed with a three of his own to give the Rockets a 17-point lead and a lot of momentum.

Now, it wouldn’t be a Rockets/Clippers game without things getting a little testy. Ever since the Rockets overcame a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals and eliminated the Clippers from the Playoffs two years ago, the Clippers always seem to get extra frustrated when the Rockets play them well. For example, look at the last game between these two squads – a game that saw Head Coach Doc Rivers and his son, Austin, get ejected from the game. Things got somewhat testy again on Wednesday when, after trying to draw a foul on a layup, Blake Griffin nailed Clint Capela in the throat with an elbow the late, great ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage would be proud of. Capela collapsed to the court and, after official review, Griffin was assessed a flagrant foul. Shortly after that, Chris Paul earned himself a technical foul.

The Griffin flagrant created a devastating seven-point swing that favored the Rockets. It erased a DeAndre Jordan tip-in that followed the foul, plus Capela hit both technical free throws and Patrick Beverley nailed what was essentially a game-ending three. Beverley was excellent in the third quarter, draining a multitude of threes and displaying a heart that the Rockets have lacked as of late. The Rockets fed off of his energy and built a seemingly insurmountable 108-78 point lead at the end of three periods.

Houston's energy from the third quarter was not sustained going into the fourth, and the Clippers actually managed to cut a 31-point lead down to 18 with just over 7:30 left to go. Although it may have seemed like a ‘too little, too late’ kind of push for the Clippers, strangers things have happened and both teams are well-aware of the kind of comebacks NBA teams are capable of. Not helping the Rockets cause in putting the Clippers away was missing the first ten field goal attempts, including several wide-open threes. In the end, the Rockets righted the ship and, despite missing their last fifteen straight threes, put the Clippers away.

Houston has a tough schedule upcoming and looks to start another winning streak this weekend as the Memphis Grizzlies make a trip to the Toyota Center.

Game Ball

This is a segment of the game recaps that will give the proverbial game ball to a player that proved to be most valuable to the Rockets on a given night. This award won’t necessarily go to the player that puts up the best numbers, but to the player that made the greatest impact on the team – tangible or intangible.

Wednesday’s ball goes to Patrick Beverley.

Just as the Weapon X program transformed Wolverine into an un-killable force of nature, Patrick Beverley injected the Rockets with heart and turned them into a world-beater. Houston could not have dominated the Clippers without Beverley’s monster game, scoring 14 points on 4/8 from three (all of them daggers) and his ability to slash through traffic in the paint on his way to 12 tough rebounds. Beverley’s undying hustle will carry the Rockets to great heights, granted the rest of the X-Men are ready to follow his lead.

It’s only fitting that ‘Logan’ is out in theaters this weekend.

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