Well, so much for the "Clippers are fine without Blake Griffin" narrative. They lost their second game in a row, this one a 110-105 setback against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night at Toyota Center. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. It was another game where the Clippers bench needed to be benched. Besides Jamal Crawford’s game-high 24 points, the Clippers reserves contributed little and were thoroughly outplayed by their Rockets counterparts, especially during the game-turning 15-1 run to start the fourth quarter. Guard Austin Rivers committed two turnovers during that stretch and the Clippers backups missed their first six shots of the quarter. That was pretty much the ballgame.
2. Corey Brewer and Josh Smith provided reminders of Doc Rivers’ inability to upgrade his roster this season. Smith picked the Rockets over the Clippers after being waived by Detroit and Brewer ended up in Houston largely because the Rockets, unlike the Clippers, had a bevy of draft picks available to trade. Brewer had 20 points off the bench and Smith finished with nine points and nine rebounds. The headband-wearing duo even connected on an alley-oop dunk in the second half and their presence off the bench will make the Rockets dangerous in the playoffs.
3. The Clippers couldn’t execute their own game plan: Keep the Rockets off the free throw line; prevent the Rockets from shooting corner three-pointers. Easier said than done, of course, but the Clippers failed on both counts. Houston took 30 free throws to the Clippers’ 19 and tied a season high by making 17 three-pointers. Rockets star James Harden scored 21 points despite an awful shooting night because he continually got to the free-throw line, where he made 10 of 12 attempts.
4. DeAndre Jordan continued to play himself into a maximum contract. The Clippers center had 22 points and 19 rebounds, connecting with point guard Chris Paul on three lob dunks in the second quarter alone. Jordan has snagged at least 15 rebounds in six consecutive games and has solidified himself as one of the game’s most valuable all-around players.
5. Will the Clippers win another game before Griffin returns? Probably, but there are no guarantees. They are 0-2 against Memphis, which they play Friday before going to Chicago to take on the Derrick Rose-less Bulls on Sunday. Then comes what seems like a winnable game against Minnesota on Monday before the Clippers return home to face Portland on Wednesday. The Clippers are now 4-3 without Griffin and would do well to stay at .500 or better until his return in a week or so.