Watch Austin Rivers score 36, lead Clippers past Rockets 128-118

6 Comments

HOUSTON (AP) — Austin Rivers scored a career-high 36 points with six 3-pointers, and the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers withstood James Harden‘s second straight 51-point performance to beat the Houston Rockets 128-118 on Friday night.

The Rockets, who had a 14-game winning streak snapped by the Lakers on Wednesday, lost consecutive games for just the second time this season and the first since Oct. 28 and 30.

Rivers made a 3-pointer with just under three minutes to play that pushed the lead to 117-111. Ryan Anderson made two free throws for Houston before C.J. Williams added a layup for the Clippers.

Former Rocket Lou Williams, who had 32 points off the bench, then made his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter after that to make it 122-113 before a turnover by Harden spurred coach Mike D’Antoni to call a timeout.

Rivers made another 3-pointer after the timeout and Harden made a layup before fouling out a few seconds later. He received a technical for arguing about the call and was ejected from the game.

It was Harden’s third 50-point game this season.

This game lacked much of the intrigue it could have had with Chris Paul sitting out in the first meeting with his former team because of a groin injury. The nine-time All-Star spent the last six seasons with the Clippers before a blockbuster trade brought him to the Rockets this summer. Patrick Beverley, who was the highest-profile Rocket involved in the trade, also missed the game while recovering from knee surgery.

The Rockets were without two starters, with center Clint Capela missing a second straight game because of a bruised left heel. The Clippers have been dealing with injuries all season after losing Beverley for the season in November and playing without All-Star Blake Griffin for the last 12 games because of a knee injury.

The Clippers, who trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, were up by nine after a dunk by Sam Dekker with about seven minutes remaining. Harden led Houston with five points during a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 108-106 with about 4 1/2 minutes left.

Los Angeles led by two entering the fourth quarter, and Lou Williams made three 3-pointers in just over a minute to power a 9-2 run that 101-93 with about eight minutes left.

Houston led by 12 early in the third quarter before the Clippers used a 10-2 run, with the last five points from Rivers, to cut the lead to 71-67 with 8 1/2 minutes left in the quarter.

Eric Gordon made a 3-pointer after that before Los Angeles made the next seven points. Rivers led the team in that span, too, scoring the last five points to tie it at 74 with about five minutes left in the third.

Houston had the next six points before the Clippers used a 10-2 spurt, capped by consecutive 3s from Williams to take their first lead of the game, 84-82.

Harden made all of his free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer to put Houston back out front, but C.J. Williams added a 3 for the Clippers at the buzzer to leave them up 87-85 entering the fourth quarter.

Houston led 65-52 at halftime after Harden made a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

Getty Images
Leave a comment

We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

Associated Press
Leave a comment

James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.

Tyronn Lue doesn’t hold back with retort to heckling Pacers’ fan

Associated Press
2 Comments

It’s a part of the NBA experience that most fans don’t get to hear — some fans courtside heckling opposing players and coaches, and those guys occasionally firing back. We only tend to hear about it when things cross a line.

Sometimes the interactions are just funny, such as this one passed along by J. Michael of the Indy Star.

Well played, Lue.

Although is Cleveland really a city at the forefront of fashion? Well, I suppose if you went to college in Nebraska…

Report: Pelicans picked up Alvin Gentry’s option for next season before sweep

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Last summer the buzz was all over the league: Pelicans GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry were given a “playoffs or bust” mandate by management. If the Pelicans were not in the postseason — and just barely getting in and then blown out in the first round might be good enough — there was going to be a housecleaning.

The Pelicans made the playoffs as the six seed with 48 wins despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles midway through the season.

That alone was good enough to get Gentry another season in New Orleans, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As noted, this happened before the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers out of the first round and into a summer of re-evaluation. This option season is the last of Gentry’s original deal with the Pelicans.

Gentry has the Pelicans playing fast, using the elite defense of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to get stops, and right now Davis is leading an offense that is just getting it done, with guys such as Nikola Mirotic stepping up. Gentry has earned another year, and a shot to integrate Cousins into this style and level of play, to see where that could take New Orleans next season.

It will be interesting to see if Demps can add more shooting and versatility with a capped out roster.