In the all important Western Conference standings, this was the biggest game of the night. You had the Los Angeles Clippers, leaders of the Pacific division, facing off against the Houston Rockets, who sat just one-and-a-half back in the Southwest Division, meeting up. Even looking beyond that, the seeding implications in this game were huge. If the Clippers lost, Houston would be three games up in the loss column going into the stretch run of the season and it'd ultimately put the Clippers behind the 8-ball when it comes to homecourt in the first round. But that didn't happen. Instead, the Clippers persevered. The opening five minutes of the game were straight out of a dream situation. The Clippers jumped out to an early 17-4 lead on the Rockets, who were coming in on the second night of a back-to-back, and it appeared like they'd possibly run Houston right out of STAPLES. But then, as tends to happen in the NBA, the Rockets made a run and cut it down to a 19-17 deficit a mere three minutes later. They went back and forth the rest of the first quarter but when the smoke cleared, the Clippers maintained a 26-22 advantage. The second quarter didn't start off so well for the Clippers, thanks in large part to the bench concoction that master strategist Doc Rivers strolled out there. Before the starters returned with 7:22 to go in the frame, the Clippers were on the receiving end of a 15-5 run that saw Houston climb ahead to the tune of 36-31. The starters restored order and, about four minutes later, the Clippers were back ahead 46-41. You guessed it. Another run. Sensing a theme? The Rockets did close the first half strong and took a 48-46 lead going into the intermission. The third quarter was a fairly seesaw affair. Neither team took a lead of greater than 4 points at any point during the period. It was truly remarkable. Any time a game is played within an 8 point window for a duration as long as that, it's pretty impressive and speaks to the sheer evenness of the teams on the court. In that third quarter, we got a nice little wash game between the star players from each side. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combined for 17 points on 11 shots while James Harden and Dwight Howard combined for 15 points on 8 shots. It was fun to watch. The fourth quarter is where all the fun started. The Clippers took the opening four minutes of the final quarter with a little 8-3 run that gave them an 82-76 lead. And with half the frame gone, they were up 84-80. That was as close as Houston would get the rest of the game. The real impressive part, though, is who was responsible. It was little Darren Collison. With the Clippers up by 6 with 2:30 to go, Darren Collison scored the next 7 points for the Clippers and did so on three straight possessions. He hit a three, with an assist by Jared Dudley, a nice jumper, and a quality layup that saw him beat Harden and go past Dwight.
Clippers cool down Rockets, 101-93
Clips Nation | Feb 27