Los Angeles, CA.- On Wednesday night the Los Angeles Clippers (47-32) came into April with the second best record in the league since the All-Star break. The team with the best record since the break were the Houston Rockets (51-28) have been the team playing the best basketball since February.
It showed Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
Both teams have locked up spots for the postseason and if it started today, these two teams would matchup in the first round. Los Angeles was 2-0 against Houston coming in, but both wins came without Houston's backcourt of either James Harden or Chris Paul not suiting up.
Los Angeles who came in winning 13 of their last 15 got a glimpse of Houston at full strength. They handed Los Angeles its worst home loss of the season.
Head Coach Doc Rivers knows this could be a potential first round matchup, but isn't going to put a lot of stock into what he saw on Wednesday night. "If we go by tonight, not very well. But we're a much better team than we showed," Rivers said.
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The Clippers came into this game with a lot of momentum after having its best win percentage in a month since 2014 (since Chris Paul was once a Clipper), and having already beaten this Houston team twice. The bout was on in Los Angeles and this Clipper team didn't show much of a fight.
Houston never took its foot off the gas, pushing its 15-pt halftime lead (68-53) to 30+ by the fourth quarter.
Rivers said after his team’s loss, that it was the first time the team had physically been overmatched in a while.
They were without their leader and heart & soul in Patrick Beverley, who sat out resting his right hip pointer he suffered back on March 28th against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Only rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was able to score 20+, leading LA with his 20 points on 50% shooting (8-16). Danilo Gallinari had 16 points.
"Every once in a while, you get the (expletive) kicked out of you," said Lou Williams, who scored 14 points off the bench. "We hadn't had one of these in three, four months, so we were due." Montrezl Harrell chipped in with 13 points and 6 rebounds.
Photo By: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
The Rockets currently sit third in the West and a game and half behind the Denver Nuggets for the second seed.
One game away from the NBA Finals a year ago, the Rockets are just three games from postseason play and getting back to where they once were.
"We only got, what, three more games now? Four? To get ready for the great grind of the playoffs," Paul said. "Everybody's just trying to get going." He finished with 29 points and 7 assists, and knocked down a 3/4 court buzzer beater to end the third. He said of the potential first round matchup against his former team, "It'd be a tough series, they're very disciplined."
The engine to this Houston rise from the bottom of the Western Conference earlier on this season has been the dynamic play of reigning MVP Harden. He finished with a game-high 31 points on an efficient 9-15 from the field to go along with 7 rebounds and 7 assists. He spoke about what he's seen from this team since the All-Star break.
"It's the best we've played and it's the right time," Harden said. He's averaging 36.3 ppg this season.
"Chris is dialed in, and James too," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "When they play like that, it's pretty tough to lose. We played unbelievably." They have won four straight and nine of their last 11.
They were a +30 from 3-pt (18-8) and, despite D'Antoni, two stars picking up three fouls each early in the second half. Clint Capela had a quiet but every effective game with 24 points and a game-high 15 rebounds (7 off). Eric Gordon chipped in with 15 points all from distance going 5-10.
Houston travels back home to face the Knicks on Friday 4/5.
Clippers’ Next Game: Friday 4/5 vs Lakers. 7:30 PT.