Three Things We Saw in Houston Rockets Win vs. Clippers


Last night (Saturday, December 19) the Toyota Center hosted what was arguably the best Houston Rockets game this season.

It became clear early the Rockets were the more rested team as they jumped out to a 38-17 first quarter lead. This resulted in the Clippers coach Doc Rivers employing the “hack-a” strategy on both Dwight Howard and Clint Capela at the start of the second quarter.

Regardless of how this tactic slowed down the game the take away for Clutch City fans was they were left with something to be hopeful about specifically in terms of the manner the Rockets played this match.

The team clearly seemed more conscious of their effort with Dwight Howard aggressive early and the team’s defensive efforts and discipline throughout the game noticeable. James Harden also had a different role this Saturday, acting more like a play maker thus favoring Rockets combined team plays.

So, here are three takeaways from last night’s game.

Full-Court defense – Weapon Against the Clippers or the League?

I’m not sure if the strategy last night was something entirely prepared to use solely against the Clippers or a new defensive weapon JB Bickerstaff is training to use against the whole league. For what it’s worth I did see the Rockets applying this same tactics a couple times before, but not consistently over four periods.

Regardless it does seem as an attractive strategy against ball-dominant point guards like Chris Paul.

It’s incredibly tough and wearing thing to do but the full-court pressure, denying the ball to the floor general does work. Chris Paul just couldn’t start plays and when he did get the ball the players had no idea what the call was.

That comes with a cost though as Patrick Beverley who was responsible for guarding Paul, (and did a great job) just couldn’t do much on the offensive end.

James Harden – Playmaker Extraordinaire

There was so many things to love from last night’s game but this one is my favorite. Harden wasn’t the scoring machine we are used to, but the fact he is that talented moving is extremely encouraging going forward. Take a look at how his presence attracts the defender leaving Donatas Motiejunas open to finish both times:

D-Mo ?

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) December 20, 2015

In one of those plays Wesley Johnson, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul are all paying attention to Harden’s movement while D-Mo comes from behind and dunks it.

Harden’s 10th assist of the game worked much the same way: Clippers entire defense were worried with Harden’s drive, instead he goes for the pass and Jason Terry knocks down the three-pointer.

James Harden with his 10th assist of the night. #NBAVote

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) December 20, 2015

I believe James has so much more to offer the team playing like that instead of dropping 40 every game. Sure if it’s necessary that he scores that option is still available but having all the players contributing and scoring every night is a lot more interesting option in my opinion.

Gassed Clippers?

Back-to-back games remain a problem for every team not just the Clippers. But to me it was clear that Los Angeles felt the effects of playing the Rockets immediately after having a tough game with the Spurs.

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And even though I believe the Rockets can beat the Clippers on any given night, I find it hard to believe the fatigue factor didn’t play a part in this game.

It was so flagrantly easy for Rockets slashers to drive to the basket and drill the Clippers defense that something must clearly have happened to Rivers team. I also believe that’s the main reason the Rockets insanely pushed the pace last night as well.

Another indicator of that is the employment of the “hack-a” strategy so soon and so often as Doc tried to breaks the Rockets rhythm and gives his players a chance to catch their breath.

That of course doesn’t take anything from the brilliant victory the Rockets grabbed.

Oh and Poor Josh Smith… played for just 5 minutes for the team he thought he was getting more playing time.

I think he might come to regret his free agency decision in the long run (if he doesn’t already).

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