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Houston Rockets: Player grades from loss to Los Angeles Clippers

Houston Rockets Guard James Harden (13) (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Guard James Harden (13) (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets Guard James Harden (13) (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Houston Rockets lost a well fought game to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. Let’s take a look at the player’s performances from the game.

The Houston Rockets lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 122-119 at Staples Center. Houston put up a very respectable effort, but they couldn’t slow down LA’s offensive explosion in the second half.

The Rockets got off to a rough start in the first quarter and the Clippers took an early 31-23 lead. Houston shot just 2-for-8 from downtown in the opening period, but their nine made free throws kept them in the game.

Houston started to find a rhythm in the second quarter, as James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Clint Capela combined for 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting in the second period, helping Houston cut the lead to just four by halftime.

The Rockets kept pouring in the points to start the second half, as Harden and Westbrook combined for 22 points in the third quarter. Houston also got two 3-pointers from Ben McLemore and five points off the bench from Thabo Sefolosha in the period. The Rockets took control of the game and led 84-80 heading into the final quarter.

Things started to unravel a bit for Houston at the beginning of the fourth. Just four minutes and 56 seconds into the quarter, Harden picked up the team’s fourth foul in the period, putting the Clippers into the bonus for the rest of the game. The Rockets committed a handful of non-shooting fouls in the final seven minutes, including an accidental foul on P.J. Tucker about 90 feet from the basket, which led to a lot of easy points at the free throw line for the Clippers.

Despite playing over half the quarter in the penalty and stellar play from Kawhi Leonard and Lou Williams, the Rockets had a 115-109 lead with just one minute and 26 seconds left in the game. Williams made a quick 3-pointer on the other end of the floor, but Tucker answered his 3 with a hook shot to put Houston up 117-112 with exactly one minute on the clock.

The Rockets were in firm control of the game at this point, but the Clippers’ execution on offense in the last minute of the game was better than Houston’s.

After Tucker’s bucket, Paul George nailed a 3-pointer just nine seconds later, slicing Houston’s lead to just two. Then, Russell Westbrook found Clint Capela under the rim for what looked like an easy dunk, but JaMychal Green blocked his shot. When looking at the replay, Westbrook drove hard down the lane to draw in the defender and made a nice pass to Capela, but the center fumbled the catch. In the extra second it took for him to gather the ball, Green recovered and blocked his shot.

Then, just seven seconds later, the Clippers found Lou Williams in the corner for a wide open 3-pointer, which gave LA a 118-117 lead. On the next possession, Harden drew a foul on Leonard and made both of his free throws, putting Houston up by one. Unfortunately, Leonard nailed a mid-range jumper on the next possession, giving the Clippers the lead once again.

With just 15 seconds left, Mike D’Antoni decided not to call a timeout and draw up a play. I thought that was a bad decision, because the Clippers were double-teaming Harden to get the ball out of his hands and make someone else take the shot. Of course, that’s exactly what the Clippers did on the next possession, and LA gave up an open 3-pointer to Westbrook, but he missed the shot.

D’Antoni should’ve called a timeout to draw up a play to get Harden going to the rim early in the possession before the Clippers could force the ball out of his hands. Instead, the Rockets ended up taking a 3, which they didn’t need, from a player who’s shooting just 22 percent from 3-point range this season.

After George made both of his free throws on the other end, Houston used their timeout this time to advance the ball. With all of the attention directed towards Harden, Chris Clemons got away from the defense and was wide open in the corner, but somehow Thabo Sefolosha missed him and he decided to throw the ball to Harden instead, who failed to get a shot off because he was triple teamed and about 30 feet away from the basket.

Let’s take a look at the player grades from this game, beginning with the starters.

Next: The Rockets starters

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