The Clippers made time to boogie as well as slip during their Texas two-step. They routed the Houston Rockets, 122-106, on Wednesday night at the Toyota Center in one of their strongest start-to-finish performances of the season. And it came only a day after a poor finish in a loss to San Antonio. Here are five takeaways from the game against the Rockets:
1. The Clippers’ second unit was first-rate. They were as good as they had been bad the previous night in San Antonio, making shots and playing actual defense. The reserves combined for 47 points, more than doubling the 20 they had tallied against the Spurs. Jamal Crawford scored 14 points and Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson had 12 apiece. Paul Pierce even made a rare appearance off the bench and scored seven points while facilitating better ball movement. “They were great,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “They changed the game for us.”
3. Dwight Howard was not a factor. The Rockets center who has often hurt the Clippers was unusually quiet, largely as a result of the Clippers’ defensive coverage that prevented him from catching the ball in his preferred spots. “We did what we were supposed to do,” Doc Rivers said. “We didn’t let him get behind us. I think he did his first play maybe, his first dunk. Other than that, I don’t know if he did until late in the game, and that was just good defense.” Howard took four shots and scored only six points, allowing the Clippers to withstand James Harden’s 33 points.
4. The Clippers have a certain bounce (back) to them. They have won seven consecutive times on the second night of a back-to-back situation, displaying an ability to flush away bad performances such as their finish in San Antonio on Tuesday. “This morning we didn’t watch one second of film on San Antonio,” Doc Rivers said. “We went right to Houston and focused on them and came out with the win. Now we have to forget about this game and focus on Memphis.” Doc Rivers said the Clippers’ resilience has been necessitated by the absence of star forward Blake Griffin. “We’ve become a grinding team,” Doc Rivers said. “You just have to hang in there and find a way to win. There’s no guarantee what lineup we’re going to have on the floor. I think that’s helped our team as well, and so I think they adjust well to back-to-backs. They don’t worry about them. They don’t think about being tired.”
5. Now it’s time for an alumni reunion. Memphis features five former Clippers, including four -- Lance Stephenson, Alex Stepheson, Ryan Hollins and Matt Barnes -- who recently played for Doc Rivers. There’s also Zach Randolph, who was once a Clipper. All will certainly want the Clippers to know how much better off they are in Memphis when the teams play Saturday at FedEx Forum. Austin Rivers said he liked all of his former teammates, though the memory of one brought a smile to his face. “Lance is probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met,” Austin Rivers said. “When him and Paul [Pierce] would get on each other on the plane, everybody on our team will remember that for the rest of our lives.” Memphis and the Clippers could be seeing a lot of each other over the next six weeks because they appear almost locked into the No. 4 and 5 seedings in the Western Conference, which would entail a first-round matchup in the playoffs.