There really was no need for the Clippers and Houston Rockets to engage in any follow-up shenanigans from a previous beef because both teams had too much at stake Wednesday night.
The teams kept the focus on basketball, with the Clippers suffering a convincing 105-92 defeat at the hands of the Rockets before 19,068 fans at Staples Center.
For the Clippers, the loss meant they dropped from the eighth spot in the Western Conference to the ninth seed, a half-game behind the Denver Nuggets, a team L.A. defeated Tuesday night.
For the Rockets, their 14th consecutive victory meant they kept the best record in the NBA, a half-game game ahead of the Golden State Warriors.
“You don’t dwell on this one,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We didn’t play like us tonight. We didn’t play with any energy. I thought they wanted to. I thought they were excited about the game.”
The Clippers went down 25 points in the first quarter, unable to slow James Harden, who had 17 of his 25 points in the period. The margin grew to 39-12 in the second quarter.
But the Clippers kept plugging and sliced it to eight points in the third before settling into an 83-72 deficit entering the fourth behind strong play from Montrezl Harrell (22 points).
They made one final push, getting to within 83-75 to open the fourth quarter on a three-pointer by Milos Teodosic.
Houston Rockets’ Luc Mbah a Moute (12) and Clippers’ Lou Williams battle for a rebound.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan (6) is fouled by Houston Rockets’ Chris Paul while grabbing a rebound in the fourth quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers’ Montrezi Harrell, left, blocks the shot of Houston Rockets’ Luc Mbah a Moute but is called for a foul.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers’ Montrezi Harrell reacts after fouling Houston Rockets’ Luc Mbah a Moute.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers’ Montrezi Harrell dunks over Houston Rockets’ Clint Capela (15) and P.J. Tucker.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Houston Rockets’ P.J. Tucker, right, is fouled by Clippers’ Boban Marjanovic while grabbing a rebound.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Houston Rockets’ James Harden celebrates his three-pointer against the Clippers.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Houston Rockets’ James Harden is fouled by Clippers Wesley Johnson (33) as Tobias Harris, left, and Montezi Harrell helps on defense in the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Houston Rockets’ James Harden is fouled by Clippers’ Tobias Harris (34) while attempting a shot in the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clippers DeAndre Jordan, right, blocks the shot of Houston Rockets’ P.J. Tucker in the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
But the Rockets just kept the pressure on the Clippers, pulling away in the final period.
“I thought we came in on an emotional high of last night and we eased into the game,” said Austin Rivers, referring to the Clippers’ stirring win at Denver. “We kind of was dragging our feet, trying to just be like, ‘All right, we’ll just ease into the game and try to win it from there.’ They came out and tried to whip our ... and they did.”
The last time the teams played here Jan. 18, things turned ugly after the game.
Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green entered the Clippers’ locker room, both upset at Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin.
Ariza and Green were suspended two games by the NBA for their actions.
So naturally before Wednesday’s game, Doc Rivers was asked if he had to talk to his team about what took place the last time.
“No, we won that game. There’s no ugly wins,” he said. “We’ve kind of barricaded all the secret passageways. Honestly, I haven’t heard one guy talk about it, to be honest.”
Rivers laughed at his comment.
Then he was asked if he was serious about barricading the doors in the hallway because Ariza and Green — and Chris Paul and Harden, who followed their teammates — had entered the Clippers’ locker room through a hallway that connects the locker rooms.
“I was joking, but I’ll be serious about it,” Rivers said, smiling. “I’m going to stay away from the barricades talks. We were going to build a wall. How about that? And I’m not paying for it. Houston’s paying for it.”