NBA Basketball

Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
LA Clippers 15 22 31 25 93
Houston 31 18 25 28 102
4:30 PM PT5:30 PM MT6:30 PM CT7:30 PM ET0:30 GMT8:30 5:30 PM MST7:30 PM EST4:30 UAE (+1)01:3019:30 ET6:30 PM CT22:30 , November 13, 2019
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas  Attendance: 18,055

Clippers bringing stout defense on the road to face Rockets

According to STATS
According to STATS

Los Angeles Clippers at Houston Rockets

  1. Since Mike D'Antoni became Rockets coach in 2016-17, the Clippers are 5-5 in this series and one of only six teams in that time frame which doesn't have a losing record against Houston. However, James Harden missed two of those games -- both Rockets losses -- and averaged 29.0 points in the other eight.
  2. Harden's 373 points are the most any player has scored through his team's first 10 games of the season since Rick Barry had 381 for the Warriors in 1966-67. The only other player to top 350 points through 10 team games in any of the past 50 seasons was Michael Jordan -- 369 points in both 1986-87 and ‘88-89.
  3. Kawhi Leonard will be rested for this game but should return Thursday against the Pelicans when Paul George is expected to make his Clippers debut. The team is 0-2 this season without Leonard, giving up 119.5 points per game, compared to 7-1 when he plays while allowing an average of 103.8 points.
  4. Houston has held each of its last four opponents under 45.0 percent from the field, winning all four games, after doing so only once in its first six games while opening 3-3. The Rockets are 89-12 (.881) in the D'Antoni era when holding the opposition under 45.0 percent, easily the best such record in the NBA.
  5. The Clippers have shot under 45.0 percent in five straight games, something they hadn't done since December 2017. They haven't been held under 45.0 percent in six in a row since February 2012.
  6. Six different Clippers have recorded a double-double over the team's last three games -- Leonard (two), Montrezl Harrell (two), JaMychal Green (one), Lou Williams (one), Patrick Beverley (one) and Ivica Zubac (one). The team had a total of three double-doubles in the first seven games of the season.
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The scoring exploits have become so commonplace for Rockets guard James Harden that he seems to hardly bat an eyelash when someone relays to him the latest of his extraordinary achievements.

For Harden and, by proxy, Houston, the latest accomplishment came Monday in New Orleans when Harden poured in 39 points in a 122-116 victory over the Pelicans that extended the Rockets' winning streak to four games after splitting their first six of the season. With an NBA-leading 373 points this season, Harden has produced the most points through 10 games in the past 50 seasons.

The Rockets' championship aspirations are intrinsically tied to Harden, and when he is at his very best, so is Houston, which will host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday at Toyota Center.

"I just go out there and play basketball," Harden told reporters. "I just try to be as assertive as I can, as aggressive as I can. We're really pissed about losing those three games. That's what we're pissed about.

"Defensively we're getting better. We've been really, really good these last few games and that's our mindset, just continue to get better individually. I've done some pretty good things individually. The most important thing is winning and finding ways to get better."

The Rockets have managed baby steps defensively during their streak, inching from dead last in the NBA in points allowed per game to 26th following their win in New Orleans.

Surrendering 105.5 points per game during their four-game winning streak won't evoke memories of the "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons, but with Houston still pacing the league in scoring, that level of defensive effort should prove sufficient until the Rockets find some reasonable combination of cohesion and fitness to carry them.

That a veteran-laden team could assign poor conditioning as part of the reason behind their sluggish defensive start should be cause for concern. Yet Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni seemed to cling to the fact that his team is improving on that end of the court as the games accumulate.

"We're getting in shape, we're getting better," D'Antoni said.

"It's a lot of good things, a lot of bad things that we've got to work through."

Describing the Clippers as antithetical to Houston might serve as an exaggeration, but they have sprinted from the gate to a 7-3 record despite not having forward Paul George available and despite Kawhi Leonard having missed two games. The Clippers opened the season with lofty expectations defensively, a narrative largely based on the presence of George, Leonard and guard Patrick Beverley.

The Clippers haven't yet fielded a top-10 defense but when they need to tighten the screws against elite opponents, they have showcased a timely ability to do precisely that. Locked into a fistfight with the strong-willed Toronto Raptors on Monday, the Clippers surrendered only 10 points in the fourth quarter while pulling out a 98-88 win in an effort reflecting their personality.

"It was just a defensive game," Beverley said. "It's still early in the season. Shots that we usually make in our sleep aren't falling so we have to lay our hat on defense. And that's what we did."

The Rockets, short-handed with Eric Gordon (right knee surgery) and Danuel House Jr. (bruised back) sidelined, will test the Clippers' defensive vigor. The Clippers are likely to be undaunted.

--Field Level Media

Updated November 13, 2019

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