Clippers struggle without Chris Paul, lose 109-105 to Houston Rockets

Photo courtesy of Rohit Ghosh |

LOS ANGELES — In a dramatic finish that may have featured a blown goaltending call, the Los Angeles Clippers fell short to the Houston Rockets 109-105 as Chris Paul sat out due to a sore right groin.

Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 35 points and 11 rebounds, but it was James Harden‘s 46 points that stole the show. Dwight Howard finished with 20 point, 20 rebounds and 3 blocks. 

The Clippers found themselves up 10 points in the second quarter, only to look up at an 11-point fourth quarter deficit moments later. A late run, however, brought the momentum back to the Clippers as Paul Pierce’s three-pointer tied the game at 105 with 40.9 seconds remaining. 

The Clippers had a chance to tie the game or take the lead a possession later, but both of Blake Griffin’s attempts failed to find the bottom of the net. The second attempt, a tip-in of the first, initially looked as if it had been altered illegally by Howard’s goaltend; the officials did not make that call however. 

Austin Rivers started in place of Paul, finishing with 10 points on four-for-12 shooting and one assist. He finished with a plus/minus of -5 and struggled to make much of a positive impact on either end of the floor. Given the milage on Paul’s legs, the lack of a reliable backup point guard may become a growing point of concern. 

“When you don’t play with Chris [Paul] who usually moves the ball and plays in a completely different way, it’s going to be different,” head coach Doc  Rivers said after the game. “Chris is great at getting us back in rhythm. I just didn’t think we were very organized, which is on me. I didn’t think we executed very well and I thought a lot of that was not the point guard. It was just the way we played.”

Despite much of the blame and attention being on a potential missed goaltending call in the final minute of the game – when it looked like Howard’s interference around the cylinder could have resulted two points – the fact of the matter is the team continues to struggle against defending the wing. 

One night after Harden lit up Sacramento with 43 points, he came into Los Angeles and reminded the Clippers and fans alike about the haunting collapse to the Rockets in last season’s postseason.

Rivers said Harden scoring 46 points n is more on him than on the team.

“[James Harden] had 46 points, so clearly we didn’t do our job tonight,” Rivers said. That is on me more than [the players] the way I look at it. We wanted to single cover for most of the game and send them different places. He just caught fire early and I know I should have adjusted.”

The Clippers outshot the Rockets, 47.7 percent to 44.2 percent, but it was a lack of discipline in the second half that was the culprit. The Clippers were outrebounded 47-41.

The last two games showed just how devastatingly competitive the West continues to be; the Clippers were tied with the Golden State Warriors going into Wednesday’s game. Now after the loss to Houston on Saturday, they are 2.5 games back. 

“I thought in the third quarter we were just bland and didn’t get good shots,” Griffin said. “Defensively we gave up some easy buckets, especially down the stretch in the third and late in the fourth. We were just a little bit sloppy but we fought back in it and the big thing is that we can’t put ourselves in that position so I think we’ll be better for the next game.”

The Clippers host the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.

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Rohit Ghosh

LA Clippers beat writer
Rohit is an L.A.-based sports journalist who contributes to SB Nation's Silver Screen and Roll, AccuScore, and the Taxi Squad Show based out of Utah. He also runs his own sports blog, Metta Chronicles. Follow him on Twitter @RohitGhosh where he discusses AccuScore projection data, a variety of sports-related topics, and even some Jazz music.


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