After a rough start to Saturday’s game in Houston, with Blake Griffin succumbing to back spasms in the first quarter and Glen Davis throwing a temper tantrum in the second quarter, the Los Angeles Clippers got back on track in the second half to defeat the Dwight Howard-less Rockets 118-107. Led by Chris Paul’s 30 points and 12 assists, the Clippers erased a 15-point deficit to clinch their third-straight playoff berth.
“We’re here to win games and our guys are growing up, they’re mature and it was great,” coach Doc Rivers said after the game.
The Clippers were able to minimize the rebounding advantage the Rockets normally have with Howard in the lineup. Houston leads the league in rebounding. Initially projected to be outrebounded by 10-11 boards, the Clippers were only outrebounded by 6. DeAndre Jordan finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks for the Clippers.
The fight the team showed to stay competitive in a game that saw everything go wrong from tip-off says a lot about a team’s mental fortitude. After the Clippers lost Blake Griffin to a first-quarter injury, the Rockets used a 7-2 run to extended their lead to 15 points. The Clippers soon responded with an 8-0 run of their own, ultimately taking control of the game in the second half.
“We knew last year that was our weakness, that we were mentally weak and I think that we put a collective focus on being mentally tough and we’ve (come) a long way this year,” Matt Barnes said about what the team was lacking a year ago.
Photo Credit: Paul Buck / EPA