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Westbrooks scores 40 as Rockets bounce back in second half to defeat the Clippers
By Jonathan Bassey, Contributing Writer
Published December 23, 2019

Rockets guard Russell Westbrook (0) made 40 points and 10 rebounds against the Clippers (Marvin Jimenez/T.G.Sportstv1)

Emotions were high during the Western Conference duel between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets. The Rockets completed a dominant second half comeback taking down the Clippers 122-117, solidifying a new rivalry between the two teams. 

“We just want to win. Everybody knows that we’re two of the best teams in the league. These matchups are always on national TV, and with Kawhi [Leonard], James [Harden] and the stage, it’s just good for the fans and the players,” said Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker. 

From opening tip-off the Clippers had a game plan that seemed to be working. Swing the ball leading to efficient shots on the offensive end, and smother James Harden on the defensive end which prevailed for the first half. 

The intensity and emotions were on display late in the first half. Clippers guard Pat Beverley and Rockets guard Ben Macklemore both receiving technical fouls with 1:57 left in the first half. 

Former MVP Harden was held to a mere seven points at halftime and was forced to take heavily contested shots by gritty defender Patrick Beverley, with the Clippers leading 69-54 at halftime.

 

Out of the halftime break Russell Westbrook let all of Hollywood know he too, like James Harden, is a former MVP. On a night where Harden who is averaging an absurd, 38.5 points per game, didn’t have it offensively Russell Westbrook shouldered the offensive load for the Rockets, with the Clippers having absolutely no answer. 

“Russ was Russ. He played his attack mentality. I almost felt he was ultra-aggressive with [James] Harden struggling,” said Paul George. “He made some big shots and some big threes. He was just timely whenever we felt we had them. In that third quarter, our tempo was slow. I thought Russ changed the game with his tempo playing up speed. That was the game.”

Clippers forward Paul George (13) scored 34 points and 9 rebounds against the Rockets (Marvin Jimenez/T.G.Sportstv1)

A 15 point halftime lead was cut to nine as Westbrook nailed a 25-foot three-pointer at the 7:27 mark in the third quarter. The mood in Staples Center quickly started to shift with Rockets fans growing louder and louder with each point shaved off the Clippers lead. 

“[We lost the game] in the third quarter. I think to start the third quarter out, we lost the aggression that we started the first half with. That was the game,” said Paul George.

 

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Rockets clawed their way out of a disastrous hole to lead by three but were in no position the high powered Clippers couldn’t overcome. 

The Clippers shot themselves in the foot with a Lou Williams ejection after protesting a foul call less than a minute into the fourth quarter. With 2:52 left to play the Rockets lead was a mere three point lead. The defensive catalyst all game Patrick Beverly finishing with 10 points, 7 assists, and 4 gritty steals fouled out. Walking to the bench Beverly and Westbrook both received technicals forcing Beverly to visit the showers early after getting a second technical foul. 

“We just missed shots. Some of our players were out. Lou [Williams] got kicked out. [Patrick Beverley] got kicked out and, that’s pretty much it. We didn’t read them too well on the defensive end, when we were on the defensive end,” said Kawhi Leonard.

The Houston Rockets shot at 50 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from behind the arc against the Clippers (Marvin Jimenez/T.G.Sportstv1)

Russell Westbrook finished the game with 40 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists while his backcourt counterpart tallied 28 points, and 10 assists.  

“It’s good to get a win, that’s the biggest thing I’m worried about mostly. When I’m competing, I’m trying to get a win,” said Westbrook. “As a team, our main goal is to be able to win at the highest level, and obviously they’re a good team at home. We came in and took care of business.”

Paul George led the way in scoring for the Clippers with 34 points and 9 rebounds. Kawhi Leornard ended with 25 points and 9 rebounds. 

“In the fourth quarter, [our problem] was more of our composure. I just thought we lost our composure overall, as a team. It happens. It shouldn’t, but this is a good learning lesson for us,” said Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers. 

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