Live by the three and you die by the three.
This old bromide could not describe the last five years of the Houston Rockets more, and even more glaringly tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers. (More on them in a minute)
James Harden was up to his old magic tricks tonight, disappearing in the biggest games of the season. Harden went 0-8 from the three-point line. (I started writing this at halftime and I had to upgrade that number an embarrassing amount of times). He also had four crucial turnovers all while posting a negative plus/minus of (-19). He just looked unsure of himself, while the Clippers entire team delivered a masterful defensive performance. Forcing Harden to go right, he shot a lousy 23.5% on 17 field goal attempts.
The Rockets simply looked too small against the Clippers. Big men Montrezl Harrell and Ivica Zubac gobbled up 22 rebounds together, while both were also second and third respectively in team scoring. The Clippers offense looked fantastic, clobbering by committee, led by superstar forward Kawhi Leonard who shot an efficient 53% on the way to 25 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Leonard made key shots early, hitting four deep treys along with new addition Marcus Morris who made three big ones early.
The Clippers are forreal y’all.
I was an early doubter as they racked up wins against nobodies and injured teams in this most recent five-game win streak. BUT as the kids say today: NO CAP these dudes are real. Tonight, the Clippers validated the myth that they are truly a powerhouse team when with a healthy roster. They are unassailably the second best team in the western conference, and one could make a very effective argument that they are the first. They just looked like a defensive fortress tonight, and made one of the best teams in the league look like little munchkins out there. The Clippers and Rockets are tied 2-2 for the season series, but the Clippers hadn’t been operating at full strength in their losses. While it would be interesting to see these two teams match up in the playoffs, it’s predictable on who would win.
It appears that once again, even post-Warriors dynasty, that the Rockets have run into another road block on their way to a championship.
And once again, Houston, we have a problem.