Ending a three-game homestand, the Los Angeles Clippers (2-1) shot 58.3% from the field during a 39-point third quarter that ended up leading to an impressive 115-112 win over the Houston Rockets (1-2), Sunday night at Staples Center.
All-Star point guard Chris Paul was not available to play for Houston, as he began his two-game suspension for his role in a heated altercation with Rajon Rondo Saturday night against the Lakers.
“You know how much we miss him, that’s obvious, but still we had enough to win,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said on Paul’s absence and the team’s performance. “It shouldn’t be an excuse. We should have played better.”
James Harden finished with 31 points and 14 assists, as he was a nightmare to guard all night for Los Angeles, but it was the Rockets who had an even harder time trying to defend an unselfish Clippers team that was a perfect 15-for-15 from the free-throw line.
“We just didn’t get enough stops when we needed to,” added Harden.
“We allowed a lot of easy buckets and that was the tale of the game. It was a three-point game when we had an opportunity to tie it but we had plenty of possessions where we allowed them to get easy shots, easy fouls and that’s what kinda carried them above us.”
Los Angeles put together a balanced effort on the offensive end, having a flurry of double-digit scorers [five], that allowed the Clippers to pick up their second win of the season.
Tobias Harris scored a team-high 23 points and Danilo Gallinari added 20 points and nine rebounds.
Montrezl Harrell led the second unit with a season-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Lou Williams and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander combined for 24 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals.
“It’s a great group of guys,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said on how interchangeable his team is. “They just got to keep allowing us to use whatever lineup we want to close out games, and if we’re able to do that, we’re going to be pretty tough.”
Los Angeles made only one three-point basket compared to Houston’s seven, but the Clippers still held onto a 54-53 lead through the first 24 minutes of play.
In the third period, the Clippers made six-of-nine three-pointers and forced the Rockets into six turnovers, which then led to the Clippers holding a 93-84 lead, after exploding for 39 points in the quarter.
However, down 108-115, Harden fired up a long-distance three-pointer and netted it home, as Harrell also fouled Harden on the play which gave the Rockets life with 29.5 seconds left in the game.
Harden then converted the free-throw, which cut the Rockets deficit to only three, (112-115)
“I tried to run him off the three-point line, but I didn’t and came back and then fouled the guy, [James Harden] for a four-point play,” added Harrell.
“I gotta know time and possession.”
On the next play, Williams missed a 23-foot jump shot which allowed Houston one last chance with 4.9 seconds left after they called a timeout.
Immediately following, Harden sprinted up the court and attempted to tie the game with a last second three-point prayer, but it was greatly contested by Gallinari and bounced off the rim, giving the Clippers a 115-112 victory at home.
The Clippers now prepare for a road trip, first with a matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans Oct. 23 at 5:00 p.m. and then to Houston, for a quick rematch with the Rockets Friday, October 26 at 5:00 p.m.