Career night by Rivers leads Clippers over Rockets 128-118
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
Dec. 23, 2017
HOUSTON (AP) — After Austin Rivers scored just six points in the first half on Friday night against the Houston Rockets, his Los Angeles Clippers teammates had a message for him.
"Austin, you've got to be more aggressive," Rivers recalled them saying.
He certainly took their advice, scoring 30 of his career-high 36 points after halftime to allow the Clippers to withstand James Harden's second straight 51-point performance in a 128-118 victory.
"If we were going to win I had to start being in attack mode," Rivers said. "And right from the get-go my whole attention was to just be aggressive and take the fight to them."
The Rockets, who had a 14-game winning streak snapped by the Lakers on Wednesday, lost consecutive games for just the second time this season and the first since Oct. 28 and 30.
Rivers made a 3-pointer with just under three minutes to play that pushed the lead to 117-111. Ryan Anderson made two free throws for Houston before C.J. Williams added a layup for the Clippers.
Former Rocket Lou Williams, who had 32 points off the bench, then made his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter to make it 122-113 before a turnover by Harden spurred coach Mike D'Antoni to call a timeout.
Rivers made another 3-pointer after the timeout and Harden made a layup before fouling out a few seconds later. He received a technical for arguing about the call and was ejected from the game.
"They played well and they hit big shots," D'Antoni said. "We did not do what we were supposed to do."
It was Harden's third 50-point game this season and he became the first player in franchise history to have two straight 50-point games. He's the first NBA player to score 50 or more in consecutive games since Kobe Bryant did so in four straight in March 2007.
Harden wasn't interested in any of that since it didn't help the Rockets win.
"We lost," he said. "None of it matters."
This game lacked much of the intrigue it could have had with Chris Paul sitting out in the first meeting against his former team because of a groin injury. The nine-time All-Star spent the last six seasons with the Clippers before a blockbuster trade brought him to the Rockets this summer. Patrick Beverley, who was the highest-profile Rocket involved in the trade, also missed the game while recovering from knee surgery.
The Rockets were without two starters, with center Clint Capela missing a second straight game because of a bruised left heel. The Clippers have been dealing with injuries all season after losing Beverley for the season in November and playing without All-Star Blake Griffin for the last 12 games because of a knee injury.
Williams made three 3-pointers in just over a minute to power a 9-2 run and the Clippers, who trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, were up by nine after a dunk by Sam Dekker with about seven minutes remaining. Harden led Houston with five points during a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 108-106 with about 4 1/2 minutes left.
Houston led by 12 early in the third quarter before the Clippers used a 10-2 run, with the last five points from Rivers, to cut the lead to 71-67 with 8 1/2 minutes left in the quarter.
Eric Gordon made a 3-pointer after that before Los Angeles made the next seven points. Rivers led the team in that span, too, scoring the last five points to tie it at 74 with about five minutes left in the third.
The Clippers used a 10-2 spurt, capped by consecutive 3s from Williams to take their first lead of the game, 84-82. They were up 87-85 entering the fourth quarter.
Houston led 65-52 at halftime after Harden made a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Clippers: DeAndre Jordan had 15 points, 20 rebounds and two blocks. ... The Clippers made a season-high 18 of 42 3-pointers.
Rockets: Gordon added 28 points and made six 3-pointers. ... Paul is listed as day to day and the team doesn't think the injury is serious. This injury comes after he missed 14 games early this season with a knee injury. ... Nene started in place of Capela and had three points and two rebounds.
The Rockets honored Beverley with a tribute video during a timeout in the first quarter. The video featured many of his highlights from his five years in Houston and Beverley beamed as he watched it from the Clippers bench. When it was done the home crowd greeted him with a standing ovation and he stood and waved to the fans.
Coach Doc Rivers and Austin both raved about the defense of rookie Jawun Evans on Harden despite his big night.
"Jawun was probably my favorite player tonight ... the stuff he did down the stretch, irritating him, playing defense was special," Austin said. "So for Jawun to be a rookie, 5-foot-10, 5-11 ... 160 pounds guarding probably the MVP this year. Come on, man. That was incredible."
The coach agreed and said: "I thought his defensive pressure gave us time to get back out on all their other shooters."
Clippers: Visit Memphis on Saturday.
Rockets: Visit Oklahoma City on Monday.
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