Tag: Blake Griffin

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets - Game One

Rockets’ shoddy defense has Clippers in command of series


LOS ANGELES — In a pivotal Game 3 Friday night, 54.2 percent of the Clippers shots were open ones. Uncontested. Clean looks.

Due to a combination of lineups and effort, too often the Rockets couldn’t or wouldn’t get a defender in the way of the shooter. (For comparison, less than 40 percent of the Rockets’ shots were uncontested.)

It’s been a problem all series — and it’s going to end this series quickly if the Rockets don’t fix it.

Through three games against the Clippers, the Houston Rockets have allowed 110.6 points per 100 possessions. That’s terrible. It’s 10.1 worse than Houston gave up in the regular season, when the team was sixth in the league defensively. That 110.6 is one point worse than the league-worst Minnesota Timberwolves gave up on the season.

It’s not just this series; the Rockets didn’t defend the Mavericks well either in the first round. Throughout the playoffs, they have allowed 107.8 points per 100 possessions. It’s just in the first round they could outscore Dallas.

The Clipper offense is carving up Rockets — particularly in transition. But honestly just about all the time they can get the shots they want — Jason Terry cannot hang with J.J. Redick, and pairing Terry and James Harden has been a defensive disaster. Harden is showing the habits of his old, poor defense self (after a season where he put out a good effort on that end of the court). Terrence Jones has missed assignments. There are more problems — too many for Dwight Howard to clean up (he’s played well). This is more than missing Patrick Beverley (the Rockets’ defense was statistically better with him on the bench during the regular season). The Rockets’ defense is the main reason the Clippers are ahead two games to one and appear in total control of this second round series.

“We’ve had one good defensive half so far,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said after Friday night’s Game 3 loss. “That was the second half of the second game. But other than that we haven’t gotten anything.”

And the Clippers have gotten pretty much everything they wanted.

That successful half the Rockets had came with Trevor Ariza fronting Blake Griffin in the post with help (usually Dwight Howard) behind to kill the lob. It was a good strategy, but the Clippers didn’t show any counters Wednesday night, often keeping the ball on one side of the court.

That changed in Game 3 Friday. Chris Paul is not one to let the ball stick on one side. The Rockets rarely went to the small lineup out of that fear. Then when Clippers players got looks they knocked them down — Austin Rivers and J.J. Redick were a combined 8-of-12 from three.

Houston counts on stops to get themselves out in transition and to get some easy buckets before the defense sets. That did not happen much at all Friday night — the Rockets went against set defenses all night long and did okay, but not great, scoring against them.

On the other side, Houston’s poor offensive choices at times have fueled easy Clippers buckets going the other way because the Rockets have been so bad in transition defense. That was especially true in the ugliest defensive stretch of the series for Houston, the Clippers’ 23-0 run later in the third quarter when Los Angeles blew the game open.

“We didn’t play much defense at that point,” McHale said. “They made a few shots on us, we had a couple turnovers during that stretch, and you know they were running, we weren’t getting back. We played very poorly during that stretch, needless to say….

“Our turnovers, they ran off it, and you know, we did not. We did not do a good job of handling the pressure., all the things that came out with that little bit of a run. We just let go of the rope, and they piled on us.”

That has to be the most concerning thing Kevin McHale — when punched in the mouth, the Rockets folded. They let go of the rope. They showed no heart. Use whatever cliche you want for the Rockets’ becoming demoralized and rolling over once the Clippers get going. That’s not how McHale played in his Celtics days, but his Rockets’ have different leadership in the locker room than those legendary teams.

If the Clippers jump out to an early lead in Game 4, what happens to Houston?

But even the early lead may not matter. If the Rockets don’t figure out how to get consistent stops — and that will not be easy against the best regular season offense in the NBA — this series will be over sooner rather than later.

Too much Austin Rivers — yes, seriously — leads Clippers blowout of Rockets, take series 2-1


LOS ANGELES — Just as expected, a Los Angeles Clippers guard changed the complexion of Game 3. He outdueled the great scorer James Harden, and changing the momentum of the series by leading the Clippers to a blowout win.

We’re talking Austin Rivers.

What, you were expecting someone else?

Sure, Chris Paul suited up and played 23 minutes, putting up 12 points and seven assists. But it was Rivers, who had 15 of his 25 points in the third quarter leading a 23-0 Clippers run — while Paul and Blake Griffin were resting —  who helped break the game wide open and help the Clippers cruise to a 124-99 win.

The Clippers now lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 Sunday at Staples — a contest close to a must-win for the Rockets.

The Clippers had it all going Friday night at home. CP3 was back, J.J. Redick knocked down shots on his way to 31 points, they played solid defense most of the night, but Rivers was the story. The guard much maligned since the Clippers picked him up — there were all sorts of nepotism comments after his father Doc Rivers brought him in, then Rivers played poorly during the season — has played well lately in the playoffs.

“It was great. It was needed,” Doc Rivers said of his son. “He was just very aggressive, and that’s what we’ve been telling him to do. And he was that…. It was important really because it allowed us to keep (Paul) at the minutes we wanted That was huge for us.”

Friday night Austin was just fun to watch — and Paul told Doc Rivers just to enjoy watching his son play.

A lot of Clippers had good nights carving up the Rockets’ defense, which was out of sync and communicating poorly all night. Particularly in the third quarter.

“We didn’t play much defense at that point,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “They made a few shots on us, we had a couple turnovers during that stretch, and you know they were running, we weren’t getting back. We played very poorly during that stretch, needless to say.”

On the night, Redick had 31 points and hit 5-of-6 from three. Blake Griffin had 22 points and 14 boards. Jamal Crawford had a dozen.

When asked a few times a few different ways after the game about how his hamstring felt during the game, Paul would only say “I got through it.”

What was clear through the game was the Clippers played solid defense on the night, the Rockets did not. The Clippers did a good job of defending without fouling — James Harden only got to the line five times on his way to 25 points (a number of those in garbage time late). Dwight Howard had 14 points and 14 assists.

“I mean, they scored 124 points,” McHale said, shaking his head. “We’ve got to get some defensive — we’ve had one good defensive half so far. That was the second half of the second game. But other than that we haven’t gotten anything.”

If they don’t get it Sunday, the series could be ending sooner rather than later.

It’s official: Chris Paul to play, start for Clippers in Game 3

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers- Game Three
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LOS ANGELES — It was pretty clear after shootaround that Chris Paul’s hamstring was relatively healthy, and he was going to suit up Friday night for the Clippers for the first time in the series against Houston. Before the game, Clippers coach Doc Rivers made it official.

“He’s definitely playing,” Rivers said before Game 3 tipped off, confirming what CP3 had told his teammates earlier in the day. “Minute wise we are definitely going to restrict his minutes. A lot of it will be visually (how he looks), but we will restrict his minutes for sure.”

Rivers said expect closer to 20 minutes than 40 for Paul on Friday night.

Rivers added that they pushed Paul in workouts the last couple days, making it him come off picks, and try to simulate game action as best as they could.

“He had a good workout,” Rivers said. “He probably got his confidence sky high because we had Sam Cassell workout with him. My guess is he scored every time, just like in Sam’s playing days.”

Paul injured his hamstring late in the first quarter of Game 7 against the Spurs. Paul went to the locker room but came back out and gutted out a fantastic performance, a game that will be part of his legacy including hitting the game winner over the outstretched arm of Tim Duncan.

But once the hamstring strain tightened up the next day Paul was sidelined. He sat out Game 1, an upset Clipper win in Houston, which set the stage for CP3 to rest game 2.

In Game 3, Rivers doesn’t want Paul to hold back.

“I don’t want him to hold back, you can’t nurse anything,” Rivers said. “Obviously you have to be smart with it, but you just have to go play. You know that team we’re playing? They don’t care. They really don’t. They don’t care what we have; they are going to attack no matter what we have. So if you’re going to go out on the field, or the wood, or whatever we call the court, you have to be ready to play.”

He said the goal is to have both Paul and Blake Griffin facilitate the offense.