Houston Rockets and Clippers shaping up to be NBA’s next great rivalry

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

In a suddenly wide-open Western Conference, the Houston Rockets and LA Clippers are separating from the pack and have had contentious moments in their showdowns so far.

With teams like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs suddenly crashing back to Earth, the Western Conference is now as wide open as its ever been. After Friday night’s close battle, the Houston Rockets and LA Clippers are third and fourth, respectively, in the West and have an identical record of 11-5.

After splitting their first two games with a differential of12 total points, the two powerhouses have played each other to a dead heat so far. In their first matchup in which Paul George was still recovering from his shoulder injury, the Rockets rushed out of the gates to take a 31-15 lead after the first quarter, and ultimately rode that momentum to a 102-93 victory from the Toyota Center.

On Friday, it was Houston that was shorthanded, missing two of their starters in Danuel House and Eric Gordon. Still, the Rockets hung tough, even obtaining a five-point lead with less than a minute left in the game. Clutch shots by Paul George, Lou Williams and Kawhi Leonard put the Clippers back on top for good, as they ended up stealing the game 122-119 from Mike D’Antoni‘s Rockets.

Both clashes have had their tense moments, as there are various intermingling relationships within the two organizations and, on one specific occasion, a boiling feud. In their first meeting on Nov. 13, there were six total technical fouls (three per team), including a comical ejection of Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers that saw his son Austin egging on the tossing of his father.

In addition to Doc’s two technicals, there were also T’s issued to P.J. Tucker, Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook. The fact that Beverley and Russ were issued technicals is shocking to no one, as they’ve had a budding rivalry for several years. The two have had several incidents dating back to Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder days, including a time where Beverley ran into Russell’s knee in 2018.

Patrick Beverley runs into Russell Westbrook's knee pic.twitter.com/vxVDSOPJWd

— Heart of NBA (@HeartofNBA) October 31, 2018

There’s much more to the Beverley-Westbrook feud that we will go into more detail in the near future, but it’s safe to say the two point guards are not particularly fond of one another.

Since James Harden joined the Rockets, the Clippers have won 16 head-to-heads to Houston’s 11, including the 2013-14 season that saw LA sweep Clutch City. In recent years, though, the two have been neck-and-neck when it comes to who’s been coming out on top in their meetings.

Next. Player grades from loss to Clippers

With the way both the Rockets and Clippers are playing so far and considering they will still improve, a seven-game series seems inevitable between them in the West playoffs this season. If the first two games are any indication, that will be a wild ride.