McHale: 'We just couldn't stop them'
The Houston Rockets were trying to get to off to a 4-0 start for the first time since the 1996-1997 season, but from the get-go it did not look like it was going to be. The Los Angeles Clippers scored the first five points and just over five minutes into the game, Houston was down double figures, losing by a final score of 137-118.
It's the most points the Rockets have allowed since April 11, 1995, when the Dallas Mavericks put up 156 in a double overtime win over Houston. The last time they allowed more than 138 points in regulation was in the first month of the 1991 season on Nov. 29, 1991 when the Indiana Pacers tallied 141 in a 20-defeat of the Rockets.
The Clippers Chris Paul and the Rockets James Harden and Dwight Howard were each western conference all-stars last season. Paul was the only one of the three to play like an all-star in this game. He dazzled the Staples Center crowd with nine assists in the first quarter on his way to a 17-assist night, to go with 23 points. His season averages are now 26.5 points and a league-leading 13.3 assists.
Houston had no answer for his play-making, but also no answer for the shot-making of free agent signing J.J. Redick who had a season-high 26 points. Jamal Crawford, who was runner-up for sixth man of the year award last season, dropped in 21 points off the Clippers bench.
"We scored, we just couldn't stop them," head coach Kevin McHale said.
That trio each scored more than any Rockets player, with Omri Casspi leading the way with 19 points. No Rockets starter scored more than 15 in the game. Harden had a particularly rough night with only 15 points as he missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.
Harden did not play a minute of the fourth quarter, but while head coach Kevin McHale acknowledged Harden was off, there was nothing to the rest Harden took in the final 12 minutes.
"He had played the third quarter, next thing you know it was 15, 16 (point lead), we play tomorrow night in Portland," McHale said.
The Rockets defense had been excellent through their first three games. They were second in the NBA in field goal percentage defense when the game began, allowing just 38.7 percent shooting. Tonight, the Clippers shot 52.1 percent. More importantly the Clippers built the big early lead on the strength of their 70 percent shooting in the first quarter.
"We had no defensive intensity, they had 42 points in the first quarter and it snowballed from there," McHale said. "We couldn't get a handle on them at all. They did whatever they wanted."