The Rockets are back on track.
Exactly one month ago the Rockets were seven games under .500 and had just lost their fourth consecutive game. The team looked lost, confused and incapable of climbing out of last place in Southwest.
Wednesday night the Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 97-92. The road win put the Rockets one game away from a .500 record at 14-15.
The Rockets opened the game on a 12-3 run before the Clippers finally scored on a Blake Griffin hook shot. The run set the pace for the game and established a deficit that the Clippers were unable to climb out of.
The closest the Clippers came to taking the lead was midway through the fourth quarter when Griffin finished off a three-point play the old fashioned way to pull his team within one.
The Rockets responded with an 11-2 run led by Kevin Martin who capped off the streak with a three pointer off of an assist from Shane Battier.
The Clippers rallied again when Al-Faroup Aminu made three consecutive free throws to pull his teams to within one at 93-92. The free throws came with under 24 seconds remaining and after a failed attempt at a steal the Clippers were forced to foul.
Unfortunately, for the Clippers it was Martin who they had to send to the free throw line. Martin crushed the Clippers hopes a second time by making four free throws in the final seconds to give the Rockets the victory.
Martin finished with a game high 28 points on 8-of-19 shooting. Luis Scola had his usual night of scoring with 22 points but only managed three rebounds.
Blake Griffin led the Clippers in scoring with 24 points on 8-of-20 shooting. Griffin also had a massive night on the boards with 18 rebounds.
The Rockets have now won six of their last seven and now have a five-day break to enjoy the holiday season.
Next Monday the Rockets have a golden opportunity to draw even at .500 when they host the Washington Wizards. The game is the first of a three game home stretch where the Rockets will also face the Miami Heat and the Toronto Raptors.
Things I noticed
- The Rockets early lead was a positive sign for a team that is still crawling their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture. The 12-3 run to start the first quarter was the best start the team has had all year. I didn’t like how they ended the first quarter by allowing three massive dunks, but prior to that they came out firing.
- The Rockets continue to improve on defense. In their last nine games they have held opponents to under the century mark in six contests.
- Aaron Brooks continues to work his way back into the Rockets rotation but I think he needs to take more shots and be more aggressive. He only managed seven points in 17 minutes tonight but was efficient in his shooting and made little mistakes with the ball in his hands.
- Kyle Lowry’s drive and finish with a minute left in the fourth quarter was the play of the game. He continues to do a great job filling in for Aaron Brooks.
- The Rockets have now won three straight road games. Prior to this stretch the Rockets had only won one road game out of their previous seven.
- The Clippers are a fun team to watch. They may still be a bad team but they are getting better. Blake Griffin is a highlight reel waiting to happen but this team has a lot of other young talent around him. The young group of DeAndre Jordan, Eric Gordon and Eric Bledsoe mean the Clippers may actually have a bright future the next few years.
- I have been critical of Shane Battier to start this season but he showed up tonight. Battier finished with an impressive stat line of 13 points 10 rebounds and 7 assists. He also provided some clutch plays in the fourth quarter.