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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Clippers rout Rockets, 120-105
Posted: March 7, 2020 -- 7:55 a.m. CT
HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets struggled mightily from three-point range Thursday night; and, the LA Clippers pounced on the Rockets and defeated the Rockets 120-105. The final score is not indicative of the butt-kicking the Clippers put on Houston. The Clippers led by as much as 30 points in the game. Houston trailed 90-65 after three quarters.
"Zu (Ivica Zubac) and Trez (Montrezl Harrell) – they were great," Doc Rivers, Clippers Head Coach said. "Listen, what they (Houston Rockets) do is smart for what they do and it really is; but, we couldn't get caught in trying to play that way; and, I thought we didn't. I thought we stayed calm, moved the ball, found the open guy, and our bigs were big. Going into the game we were telling them ‘you have to be big tonight; you can't be small.’ I thought they did a great job. (I'm) really happy for Zu."
Zubac (17 points and 12 rebounds in 20 minutes) and Harrell (19 points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes) dominated Houston.
At 9:52 of the first quarter, Kawhi Leonard nailed a three-point basket to put the Clippers ahead 5-4. The Rockets never led the rest of the game. Houston trailed 33-23 after the first quarter and never pulled within single digits the final 36 minutes.
"They [Clippers] smacked us good. We didn't respond. We didn't respond defensively—we didn't respond anywhere. Then obviously we just had a really bad night shooting the ball, and like I said—I don't know if that's a product or not, but we didn't shoot it. Everything kind of spiraled downward. We couldn't get the crowd into it because there was nothing to get into. We were just that bad from the beginning. (It was) one of those nights where you try to learn from if you can. It started in New York it didn't start just tonight. We were that bad in New York with our energy and I thought we came out about the same way. These guys smacked us."
Houston (39-22) made 2 three-point shots on 12 attempts in the first quarter. The Rockets missed all 10 three-point attempts in the second quarter. The Clippers (43-19) led 67-46 at halftime.
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Houston missed 20 consecutive three-point shots during the game. Eric Gordon ended the drought with a three-point basket with 1:57 left in the third quarter. Gordon's basket cut Houston's deficit to 86-61.
For the game, Houston made 7 of 42 three-point attempts (16.7%). The 16.7% shooting from 3-point range is the fourth-lowest in NBA history by a team with at least 40 attempts. The Clippers shot 13 for 40 (32.5%) from three-point range in the game.
"We just didn't do what we were supposed to do on both ends of the floor," James Harden said after the game. "They (the Clippers) made some tough shots; but, they're a good team. Defensively, we were in our spots; (but) we didn't do what the game plan was from the beginning of the game. Offensively, we just didn't have any rhythm. They made us play in the half court, because we didn't get any stops; so, chalk it up as a learning lesson and; we, just have to bounce back."
With the win, the Clippers split the season series against the Rockets 2-2. Houston has lost two straight for the first time since a four-game span from Jan. 14 to Jan. 1/20. L.A. has won six in a row after losing three straight from Feb 11 to Feb. 22.
Harden scored 16 points on 4 for 17 field goal shooting -- 0 for 8 on three-point attempts.
"You look at film," Russell Westbrook remarked. "You figure out what you can do to improve and move forward and improve your game plan."
The Rockets next game is Saturday, March 7, on the road, against the Charlotte Hornets. Tip is set for 4 p.m.
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